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Bearing koramc inscriptions which include surahs i, 106 and 1x2 
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©Philip K. Hitti 1970 

All rights rcsened No reproduction, cop> or transmission 
of this publication may be made without written permission. 

No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied 
or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance 
with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1956 (as amended), 
or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying 
issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 33—4 Alfred Place, 
London WC1E 7DP. 

Any person who does any unauthorised act m relation to 
this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and 
civil claims for damages. 

First edition 1937 

Second edition 1940 

Third edition 1943, reprinted 1946 

Fourth edition 1949 

Fifth edition, enlarged 1951, reprinted 1953 
Sixth edition 1956, reprinted 1958 
Seventh edition I960, reprinted 1961 
Eighth edition 1963 
Ninth edition 1967, reprinted 1968 
Tenth edition 1970. twelfth reprint 1989 

Published by 

Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 2XS 
and London 

Companies and representatives 
throughout the world 

Printed in Hong Kong 

ISBN 0-333-06152-7 (hard cover) 
ISBN 0-333 -0987t-4 (paperback) 

i5?r r tf fkvm H)*frh 


THE year 1970 marks the thirty-third anniversary of the pub- 
lication of History of the Arabs and witnesses its tenth edition 
The initiative for its writing was taken by Mr. Daniel Macmillan, 
who, as early as 1927, wrote to the author suggesting a book 
comparable to Ameer Ali, A Short History of the Saracens, first 
published by Macmillan and Co. in 1900. The occurrence of the 
word "Saracens'* in the title left no doubt about the obsolete 
character of the work. 

In my youthful enthusiasm I signed a contract in 1927 agree- 
ing to deliver the manuscript in three years, (A representative of 
Macmillan, who was then touring the Arab world, suggested an 
Arabic version of the book and I thought I could do that in a 
couple of subsequent years.) When the book at last appeared, in 
1937, the New York publisher (before St. Martin's Press) asked 
my opinion as to the number of copies to be imported and when 
1 offhand suggested a hundred, he shot back, "Who is going to 
buy that many?" 

As a matter of fact the American public, even at its educated 
level, was then almost illiterate so far as the Arabs and Moslems 
frere concerned. The rare courses in this field were limited to a 
few graduate schools and offered as subsidiary to Semitic studies 
and as contributor}' to philology or linguistics. Nowhere were 
such courses given for their own sake or as a key to further in- 
vestigation of Arab history, Islam and Islamic culture. This was 
substantially the situation until the second World War. It was not 
until then that the American government and public were 
awakened to the fact that here are millions of Moslems and tens 
of thousands of Arabs with whom they had to deal and of whom 
they should have some understanding. 

The demand, subsequent to the appearance of the first English 
edition, for translation rights— not only into Arabic but into 
f varied Asian and European languages — left no doubt about the 
timeliness of the work and its capacity to meet the need. It is 
gratifying to note that since the publication of the ninth edition 



four years ago new versions have appeared in Italian, Serbo- 
Croat and Polish. 

In this edition, as in earlier ones, an effort was made to take 
into consideration the results of new researches, to update the 
material in text and footnote, and to plug that seemingly in- 
exhaustible supply of errors — otherwise called typographical. 
About sixty sheets, including four maps, have been thus treated. 

P. K. HL 

fanuary t 1970 


IN the first four editions of this book, appearing 1937 to 1949, 
the story ended with the Ottoman conquest of the Arab East in 
1517. Beginning with the fifth edition an attempt has been made 
to cover the modern penod down to the year of publication. This 
attempt to keep the story up to date in an area undergoing 
changes with a rapidity unparalleled in its history, and at the 
same time subjected to intensified research by Western as well 
as Eastern scholars on a scale hitherto unattained necessitated 
many reprints and new editions. In each case revision has in- 
cluded correcting factual and typographical errors, adding new 
data, and replacing references to footnotes with more recent and 
critical ones. In the present edition no less than seventy pages 
and eight maps have been thus affected. 

Meanwhile the widening spread of the ecumenical spirit in a 
shrinking world and the heightening awareness of the desir- 
ability if not necessity of intercultural understanding have en- 
couraged the translation of this volume into a number of 
European and Asian languages beginning with Spanish and 
ending with Urdu and Indonesian. 

P. K. H. 

August \ 1966 


POUTICAX- changes of historical import have marked the last 
three years in Arab lands. Mauretania and Algeria were freed 
from France, and al-Kuwayt— with reservations— from Great 
Britain, Syria broke off from the United Arab Republic, and 
al-Yaman followed suit. Political changes generally reflect social 
and economic upheavals and in turn react on them, As a matter 
of fact, the entire area has been and remains in a state of 

In this edition an attempt has been made to make room for 
references — brief as they are — to these momentous changes in 
the hope that they would enhance the usefulness of this book to 
both student and general reader. Meanwhile advantage was 
taken of the opportunity to clarify certain ambiguous passages 
and correct hitherto-undetected slips in text, footnotes and maps. 

P. K. H. 

December, 1962 


Poptcak interest in the Arab peoples and lands — as measured 
by space coverage in the daily press — as well as scholarly interest, 
evidenced by the volume of book output, are still mounting. In 
the last four years, since the sixth edition was issued, more works 
dealingiwith the history, culture, literature and varied aspects 
of the life 'of the Arabians and Arabic-speaking peoples have 
appeared than probably in any equivalent period in their entire 
existence. The output has been featured by the abundance of 
-scholarly works in Arabic and by Arabs. 

, The author has meanwhile endeavoured to keep abreast of the 
progress in research in this field, He has also undertaken repeated 
Journeys to all the major countries treatedm the book. Through- 
out, he bore in mind the possibilities of improvement of the 
material therein. 



As in the earlier editions, statistical and other data that became 
obsolete have been brought up to date, new editions of books 
referred to in the footnotes have replaced old ones, and mis- 
statements have been corrected Careful consideration has been 
given to all suggestions for improvement from teachers, students 
and readers in all parts of the world The result, it is hoped, will 
enhance the value and increase the usefulness of the book as a 
text and as a general work of reference. 

P. K. H 

March, 1962 


AS in earlier editions — the fifth excepted — alterations in the 
sixth edition consisted largely of correcting misprints and minor 
errors, bringing certain statements and references to books up 
to date and introducing changes in the light of new researches. 
Due consideration has been given to reviews of the book in 
learned magazines, including reviews of translations of the work 
particularly into Arabic, Spanish and Urdu. Scholarly interest 
in the Arabic-speaking peoples and their lands has been so in- 
tensified — in both East and West — in the last few years that the 
alterations necessitated in this edition exceed those of any pre- 
ceding one; only few pages escaped some treatment. One radical 
change relates to the pre-Islamic kingdoms of South Arabia 
(pages $2-5), where new explorations have been recently made. 
Of the maps several received additional place names occurring 
in the text, while one, page 684, had the boundaries adjusted. 

In thf* case of the fifth edition the main change involved the 
addition of a new part, Part VI, under the title Ottoman Rule, 
which brought the history down to the present time. 

The author acknowledges his indebtedness to students, col- 
leagues, readers and friends, too numerous to name, who have 
personally and generously communicated their views and sugges- 
tions to him for improving the usefulness of the work. 

P. K. H. 

November^ 1955 


IN response to requests from reviewers and readers this edition has 
been enriched by the addition of a new part, Part VI, Under the 
Ottoman Rule, thus bringing the story sketchily to the present 
time. The new part benefited by criticism from my colleague Pro- 
fessor Lewis V. Thomas and the old by several reviews, the 
longest among which was that of Professor Richard N. Frye in 
Speculum^ vol xxiv (2949), pp. 582-7. Of the many students who 
offered fresh suggestions and critical remarks, special mention 
should be made of Richard W. Downar and Howard A. Reed. 

Several maps were revised. That on page 5 (the Moslem World) 
was brought up to date, and the one on page 495 was redrawn and 
made to change places with the one originally on page $22. 

P. K. H. 

July, 1950 


THIS edition has benefited by fresh studies in which the author 
has for some time been engaged in connection with the prepara- 
tion of a volume on the history of Syria and Lebanon, as well as 
by visits he made in the summers of 1946 and 1947 to almost alt 
lands of the Arab and Moslem East. While in Su'udi -Arabia he 
had an opportunity to discuss with Thomas C. Barger the results 
of surveys made by the Arabian American Oil Company; the 
discussion was of assistance in revising several paragraphs deal- 
ing with the geography of that land. 

As in the past, suggestions from students, teachers and readers 
in different parts of the world led to the emendation of a number 
of passages in the text. Special mention should be made of the 
contribution of a student in my graduate seminar, Harry W. 
Hazard. It may be worth noting that the low dates which mark 
the publication of several Arabic texts cited in the footnotes 
r belong to the Moslem calendar, which began A.B. 622, and 
whose year is lunar. " P. K. H 

dprih 1948 


In preparing copy for this edition careful consideration was 
given to all available reviews of the second edition as well as to 
communications made privately to the author by students, 
teachers and other readers of the book. The products of recent 
researches appearing in learned journals and new publications 
were also fully utilized. This resulted in several corrections of 
inconsistencies or minor errors and in the clarification of certain 
ambiguities in the text. The footnotes received further treatment 
involving the addition of newly published sources and reference 
works and the replacement of earlier editions by more recent 
and critical ones. In this connection it must be noted that when- 
ever a work is cited for the first time in a footnote, the full title, 
including name of author and place and date of publication, is 
given; after that the title is abbreviated. When a biography of 
an Arab author is sketched in the text and reference is made 
to his major work, that reference usually comprises full title 
supplemented by a reference to any existing scholarly translation 
into a Western European language, particularly if English. 

The third edition, like its two predecessors, owes not a little 
to my graduate students and to members of the Summer 
Seminar in Arabic and Islamic Studies. 

P. K. H. 

April, 1942 


In this edition an effort has been made to bring the materia] 
up to date and to introduce necessary emendations. Due 
consideration was given to critical comments whether privately 
communicated or published as reviews, among which that of 
Professor George Levi della Vida in the Journal of the American 
Oriental Society, volume 59 (1939), was the most comprehensive. 
Into the footnotes were incorporated certain items of the selected 
bibliographies which originally were to be appended to each 
chapter of the book. 

Of those who contributed to the first edition Dr. Edward 
J» Jurji and Dr. Nabih A. Faris have made further contribution 
to the present one; and of my graduate students George F. 
Hourani offered several suggestions on the Byzantine relations 
and Floris L. Fenverda collaborated in reconstructing two of-the 
maps. Dr. A, R. Nykl, of Madrid, read the chapters on Spain. 

The services of all these gentlemen and the co-operation of 
my wife are herewith gratefully acknowledged. 

P. K H. 

StpUtribtr, 1939 



This is a modest attempt to tell the story of the Arabians and the 
Arabic-speaking peoples from the earliest times to the Ottoman 
conquest of the early sixteenth century. It represents many years 
of study and teaching at Columbia University, the American 
University of Beirut and Princeton University, and is designed 
to meet the needs of the student as well as the cultivated layman* 
The field it covers, how ever, is so extensive that the author can- 
not claim to have carried his independent researches into every 
part of it. He therefore had to appropriate in places the results 
of the investigation of other scholars in the East and in the 
West, to whom his indebtedness would have been more apparent 
had the selected bibliographies appended to each chapter in the 
manuscript appeared in the printed book. 

While in preparation certain chapters of the book were sub- 
mitted to various scholars for their criticism. Among those who 
made a distinct contribution were Professor A. T. Olmstead, of 
the University of Chicago; Dr. Walter L. Wright, Jr., now 
president of Robert College, Istanbul; Dr. Costi Zurayq, of 
the American University of Beirut, Lebanon; and two of my 
colleagues, Professor Henry L. Savage and Professor Albert 
Elsasser, of the Department of English. 

For several years the manuscript was made the basio of a 
graduate course, and it benefited considerably from suggestions 
and criticisms offered by my students. Among these special 
mention should be made of George C. Miles, now of Rayy, 
Persia; Butrus 'Abd-al-Malik, of Assiut College, Egypt; Edward 
J. Jurji, of Baghdad; Harold W. Glidden; Richard F. S. Starr; 
and Nabih A. Paris, of Jerusalem. Dr. Faris rendered further 
service by collaborating in sketching the maps, reading the 
proofs and compiling the index. 

To all these gentlemen, as well as to my wife, who co-operated 
in typewriting the manuscript and proposed several improve- 
ments, my hearty thanks are due. 

P. K. H. 

Corlear Bay Club 
Lake Champlatk, New York 




The Arabs as Semites: Arabia the Cradle of the Semitic 
Race «•*.•»•-* 5 

Claims on our interest—Modern explorations — Ethnic relationship: 
the Semites— Arabia, the cradle of the Semites. 


The Arabian Peninsula ...... X4 

The setting of the stage— Climatic conditions—Vegetation— The date- 
palm— Fauna—The Arabian horse— The camel. 


Bedouin Life . * 23 

The nomad— Razzia— Religiousness— The clan— 'Afcbfyah— The sheikh. 


Early International Relations . .30 

South Arabians— i. Relations with Egypt— Smaitic copper— Frankin- 
cense— 2. Relations with the Sumerians and Babylonians— 3, Assyrian 
penetration— -4. Neo-Babylonian and Persian relations; Tayma' — 
5. Contacts with the Hebrew— Biblical association: Old Testament 
references— 6. In classical literature — Roman expedition— The aromatic 


The Sabaeak and other States of South Arabia 49 

The South Arabians as merchants — South Arabic inscriptions — r. The 
Sabaean kingdom— Ma*rib dam— 2. The Minaean kingdom— 3. Qata- 
bim and J-Jatframawt— 4. The first Himyarite kingdom— The Semitic 
origin of the Abyssinians— The castle of Ghumdan— The Romans 
displace the Arabians in maritime trade — 5. The second Himyarite 
^^^s^Christianity an< * Judaism in al-Yaman— The period of 
' * Abyssinian ruie~The breaking of Ha'rib dam— The Persian period* 





The Nabataean and other petty Kingdoms or North 
amd Central Arabia ...... 67 

l. The Nabataeans— The Sinaitic origin of the alphabet— Petra--2. Pal- 
myrena — Odaynath and 7enobia — 3. The Ghassanids — The Syfo-Arab 
kingdom at its height — Al-Mundhir, son of al-Hanth — Fall of the banu- 
Ghassan— 4. The Lakhmids— AMJirah at the height of its power—The 
royal family Christianized— 5. Kindah. 


Al-Hijaz on the Eve of the Rise of Islam . . 87 

The Jahrilyah days— The "days of the Arabians"— The Basils War— The 
Day of Dahis — North Arabic in its influence as a language — The heroic 
age — Poetry — The ode in the classical period — The Mu*allaq3t — The 
pre tslamic poet— Bedouin character as manifested in poetry— £edouin 
heathenism— Solar aspects— Jinn— The daughters of AUah— The Mak- 
kan Ka'bah— Allah— The three cities of al-Hijaz: al-Ta*if— Makkah— 
Al Madtnah— Cult iral influences in al-Hijaz: 1. Saba— a» Abyssmia— 
3. Persia— 4 Ghas*aniand— 5 The Jews. 



Muhammad the Prophet of Allah . « . . m 


The Koran the Book of Allah . , . . 123 

Islam the Religion of Submission to the Will of Allah 128 

Dogmas and beliefs— The five pillars: J. Profession of faith — 2 Prayer— 
3. Almsgiving — 4. Fasting— 5. Pilgrimage— Holy War, 


Period of Conquest, Expansion and Colonizations a.d. 
632-61 139 

The orthodox caliphate: A patriarchal age— Arabia conquers itself— 
The economic causes of the expansion. 

^■r triifion of the new, territory. 

'At'l^Q-'AKD Persia conquered 

'^S^liJl '': " ' ' " ' ' CHAPTER XIV 
~S^TRIPptlS;.AND Barqah acquired 
I >: f^Tn'e library of Alexandria. 



i^-Sfif^' . CHAPTER XV 

^SISnistration of the ; new Possesions . • i«9 

f^^S/constituUon-Tbe ^^"^SSL?"* < * !to,M, *~ 
^V; Oiaradef and achievements of the orthodox cabphs. 



^^cctiv^cahphate-^rhe caliphate of 'Ali^en^; of the gr^at 
:Ul ; :-;;3rphat^TheiaUphate. a pre-eminently pohUcal office. 




f/iDTOASTY' : ,X-'.:'.r'i-'^-- ' ♦ , ' * 

V:€^^n^to ; fte calipW disposed of-Mu«awiyab, the model . . 

SS%ll3frcf>: ; ; CHAPTER XVIII 

v r.;A k . :w ; > - i •* r v;^ < j v V A -s ^ ■ •• *■ ' \ * 7 - i - 

rkW ; *;>w* '.The. Mft&a?t'^ ^- ■/? ^ r 1 ' * • 




The Zenith of Umayyad Power . . • ,206 

An energetic viceroy, al-^Jajjaj— Conquests "beyond the river" — Con- 
quests in India— Against the Byzantines — Conquests in northern Africa 
and south-western Europe — Nationalizing the state — Fiscal and other 
reforms — Arclutecrural monuments. 


Political Administration and Social Conditions under 
the Umayyads ....... 224 

Military organization— Royal life— The capital— Society — Clients— 
Dhimmis — "The covenant of 'Umax" — Slaves — Al-Madinah and 

Intellectual Aspects of Life under the Umayyads . 240 

A]*Basrah and al-Kufah — Arabic grammar — Religious tradition and 
canon law — History-writing — St. John of Damascus — Kharijites— 
MurjYites — The Shrah — Oratory—Correspondence — Poetry— Educa- 
tion— Science— Alchemy— Architecture— The Mosque of al-Madinah — 
Early mosques in the provinces— The Dome of the RocX— The Aqsa 
Mosque— The Umayyad Mosque— Palaces. Qusayr 'Amrah— Painting 

Decline and Fall of the Umayyad Dynasty . # 279 

Qays versus Yaman— The problem of succession— The partisans of 
•Ali— 'Abbasid claimants— The Khurasanians— The final blow. 


The Establishment of the 'Abbasid Dynasty . . ^88 

Al-Mansur, the real founder of the dynasty— Madmat al-Sal&m— A Persian 
vizirial family, 

The Golden Prime of the ^bbasids . 4 • 297 

Relations with the Franks— With the Byzantines — The glory that was 
Baghdad — Intellectual awakening — India— Persia — Hellenism — Trans- 
lators— IJunayn ibn-Isfraq — Thabit ibn-Qurrah» 

The 'Abbasid State ...... 3x7 

The 'Abbasid caliph— Vizir— Bureau of taxes— Other governmental 
bureaux— Juch'rialadrninistration— Mffi 



^Abbasid Society ^332 

Home life — Baths— Pastimes — Slaves — Economic life; commerce — 
Industry — Agriculture — Dhimmis: Christians — Ncstorians— Jews — 
§abians— Magians and other dualists—The Islarruzation of the empire 
— The conquest of Arabic. 



Medicine — € AUal-Tabarf— - Al-Razt — Al-MajQsi-— Ibn-SIna — Philo- 
sophy — Al-Kindi — Al-Farabi — The Brethren of Sincerity — Astronomy 
and m athematics — Al-Battani — Al-Blruni — * Umar al-Khayyam — 
Astrology — The Arabic numerals— Al-Khwarizmi — Alchemy — AJ-J&fciz 
— Lapidaries — Geography — Greek antecedents — "World cupola** — , 
Literary geographers — Y&qfit — Historiography— Early formal historians 
— Al-Tabari— Al-Mas*udi~ Theology— The science of fcadlth— The six 
canonical books — Jurisprudence — The four orthodox schools— Ethics — 
Literature— Belles-lettres— The Arabian Nights— Poetry. 

Education ........ 408 

Elementary — Institutions of higher education — Adult education—* 
Libraries— Bookshops — Paper — General level of culture. 

The Development or Fine Arts . '416 

Architecture — Painting — Industrial Arts — Calligraphy — Music — 
Musical theorists. 

Moslem Sects . . . . . , « j 429 

Nationalism versus orthoddxy — Moslem inquisition — The AMiWite 
system prevails — Al-GhazTSli — Sufism — Asceticism — Mysticism 
Theosophy — Pantheism — Mystic poetry and philosophy — Fraternal 
orders— The rosary— The cult of saints — Shf&h— Isma'Sfites— Batnv 
^ r itcs— Qarmatians— The Assassins— Nu«ayns— Other Shrtte hetero 
_ doxies. 


The Caliphate dismembered: Petty Dynasties in the 

r> In Spain— 2. The Idnsids— 3. The Aghlabids— 4. The Tftlumds— 
Public worU— 5. The Ikhshidids— A negro eunuch— 6. The Samdariids 
'—Literary efflorescence— Raids into "the land of the Romans", 



Sundry Dynasties in the: East . . . .461 

X. The Tahirids— 2. The $a(Tarids— 3. The Samanids— 4. Ghaznawids— 
MabmQd of Ghaznah — The imperial guard — A servile war — The a*ntr 
al-umard* in power— 5. The Buwayhid dynasty — 'Atfud-al-Dawlah — 
6. The SaJjuqs— Tughri! in power— Alp Arslan— SaljQq power at its 
zenith — An illustrious vizir: Ni?am-al-Mulk — Disintegration of the 
Saljuq realm— Baghdad unmindful of the Crusades — The shafts of 
Khwarizm — Enter Chingiz Khan. 

The Collapse of the *Abbasid Caliphate , 484 

Hulagu in Baghdad — Last champions of Islam, 



Conquest of Spain . . . . . • 493 

Gothic kingdom destroyed — Mfisa crosses the strait — A triurnphal 
procession — Musa falls from grace — The conquest explained — Beyond 
the Pyrenees — The battle of Tours — Civil wars — The amirate. 

The Umayyad AmIrate in Spain . . . -.505 

A dramatic escape— Cordova captured— Moslem Spain consolidated and 
pacified— A match to Charlemagne — An independent amlrate — Treat- 
ment of Christians— Renegades in arms. 

Civil Disturbances ...... 51a 

The "slaughter of the ditch" — Race for martyrdom — Flora and Eutogius 
— Provinces in revolt — Ibn^afsGn. 

The TJmayyad Caliphate of Corbova » . . $20 

Caliph f Abd-al-Rabman al«Na$ir— Al-Zahra\ 



Political, Economic and Educational Institutions . 526 

Cordova— Governmental institutions — Industry— Agriculture— Trade-- 
The caliph in Ms glory — Educational activity — 'Ami rid dictatorship— 
CoUanseof Umayyad power. 

te States: Fall of Granada . . . • 537 

The 'Abbadids of Seville— Al-Mu'tamid— The Mura bits— Coinage— 
Persecution—The would-be Arabs— My Cid die Challenger— Collapse 
of the - Murabits— The Muv*atuHids —Founder of the Muwahrnd 
dynasty— Al-Mansur — Banu-Nasr— Alhambra — The last days of 
Granada— Morisco persecution, 


Intellectual Contributions * • . . • 557 

Language and literature— Poetry — Muwashshahs — Education — Books 
—Paper— Historiography— Geography— Travels— Influence over the 
<West — Astronomy and mathematics — Botany and medicine — Ibn-al* 
Bayfar— Medicine — Al-Zahrawi — Ibn-Zuhr — 'Transmission to Europe— 
^ Philosophy— Ben- Gablrol — Ibn>Bajjah— Ibn-Rushd— Ibn-Mayrmln — 
Ibn-'Araoi, the mystic— Toledo, centre of translation. 

Art«and Architecture „ „ . . . . 591 

Minor arts — Ceramics — Textiles — Ivories — Architecture — Alhambra — 
The arch— Music — Influence in Europe. 

In Sicily . 602 

-Conouest— In Italy— Across the Alps— Withdrawal from Italy— The 
^ Sicilian amiratc— Norman conquest — Arab Norman culture — AMdrisi 
* —Frederick II— Sicily's place m transmitting thought— Via Italy, 



A Shi'ite Caliph *te in Egypt; The Fatimids . . 617 

' -l Stt ? 5 ?l ie P^P*!?* 1 ^— The enigmatic Sa'Id- The first Fafimid— The 
fleet— 1 fee commander Jav*har— rajimid power at its height — A dt> 
- tangedcaliph— Decadence— Fall. 




Life in Fatimid Egypt • . . * .625 

High hfc— Administration-- Scientific and literary progress-^Hajl of 
Science — Astronomy and optics— The royal library — Art and architec- 
ture — Decorative and industrial arts. 


Military Contacts between East and West: The 
Crusades 633 

Saljuqs of Syria — Complexity of causation and motivation — I. Period of 
conquest — The Byzantines recover Asia Minor — First Latin princi- 
pality — Antioch reduced — Jerusalem captured — Italian fleets reduce 
seaports — Baldvnn I, king of Jerusalem — The third Prankish princi- 
pality established — Social contacts — 2. Moslem reaction* The 2angids 
and NQrids— Enter Saladin— JJittin— Siege of 'Akka— 3. Period of civil 
and petty wars The Ayyubids— The Frankish camp— Egypt, the centre 
of interest— St. Louis — The Ayyubids give way to the Mamluks— The 
last blows* Baybars— Qalawun — *Akka. 

Cultural Contacts . . . . - -659 

Nurid contributions — Ayyiibid contributions — In science and philo- 
sophy — In letters — In military art — Gunpowder — In architecture — 
Agriculture and industry — Water-* heels — Trade — Compass — Raaal 

The^Mamluks, last Medieval Dynasty of Arab World 67 1 

Dynasty established — Ba^ri and Burji Mamluks — Ayyubids and 
Tartars repelled — Ba> bars— The cahphal episode — Qalawun and the 
Mongols-— His hospital — Al Ashraf — Mongols repulsed — Egypt at its 
cultural height — Famine and plague — The downfall of the Bajins. 

Intellectual and Artistic Activity . . -683 

Scientific contribution — Medicine — Jewish physicians — Diseases of the 
ej e — Medical history— -Social science — Biography — History — Jslamics 
and linguistics — Story-telhng — Shadow play — Architecture — Art — 
Illumination — Luxurious living. 

The End of Mamluk Rule 694 

Specimens of Burji sultans— Desperate economic situation^Indian 
trade lost — Monumental -works — Foreign relations — Cyprus conquered 
— Timur—Timunds— Ottoman Turks— $afawids— The decisive battle 
of Marj Dabiq— Egypt conquered— The Ottoman caliphate. 





The Arab Lands as Turkish Provinces . » , 709 

North Africa — Pirate states— The splendour that was Constantinople — 
Ottoman culture— The imperial set-up — Inherent elements of weakness — 
The loss of North African states. 


Egypt and the Arab Crescent . . • . 719 

Mamluks remain in control — *Ali Bey declared sultan — Napoleon Bona- 
parte — Muhammad *Alr founder of modern Egypt — Syria — Provincial 
administration — Economic decline — Fakhr-al-Dm, enlightened amir of 
Lebanon — The 'Azrns in Syria — Palestine has its dictators — Bashir 
al-Shihabi—- Autonomy of Lebanon internationally recognized — AKIraq 
— ArabSa—Wahhabis— IbmSu'ud— Intellectual activity. 


The Changing Scene: Impact of the West . . 745 

Cultural penetration: Egypt — Syria and Lebanon — Political penetration 
— The British occupy Egypt — French and British mandates — An 
Egyptian reformer — Nationalism — Trend toward union. 

Index , 



The curtain of the door of the Ka'bah at Makkah . Frontispiece 


Sabaean types ........ 31 

Ancient Egyptian representations of Arabians . * -33 
Semcrkhet, the sixth king of the first dynasty, smiting the chief 

of the Nomads 34 
A frankincense tree and a Mahri collector . . * 35 
The ruins of Naqab al-Hajar and two lines of inscription which 
furnished Europe with its first sight of South Arabic inscrip- 
tion ........ 51 

A table of alphabets, including Ra's al-Shamrah cuneiform . 53 

Himyarite silver coin ....... 56 

Himyarite silver coin 58 

Petra: the Palace 73 

Petra: the Dayr ....... 73 

Palmyra: the colonnade and triumphal arch . • 77 

Nabataean bronze coin ...... 86 

The Black Stone of al-Ka'bah 101 

Makkah from the mountain of abu-Qubays . . .103 
Muhammad's journey through the celestial spheres . .115 
The Eg>ptian and Syrian Mahmils on their departure from al- 

Muzdalifah to Mina, 1904 . . . , . 135 
Pilgrims around the Ka'bah performing the Friday prayer, 1908 137 
North-eastern view of the Ka'bah, 1908 . . , 137 
An imitation in gold of a Byzantine coin with Arabic inscrip- 
tion ........ 218 

Copper coin of *Abd-al-Malik . . . . • 218 

A Byzantine weight validated by al-Walid (f 715) , . 223 

Damascus today, as seen from al-Salihfyah . . . 230 

Interior of the Dome of the Rock # % # 257 
The Mosque of Makkah seen from the east . #258 

The interior of the Mosque of al-Madinah . . . 259 

Tiie Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain . . 263 
Umayyad Mosque of Damascus: the colonnade and northern 

minaret ........ 266 

Facade of al-Mushatta ...... 268 



Qusayr 'Amrah from the south-east . . . .570 
Pictures on west wall of the main hall of the Qusayr * Amrah . 272 
'The Haram area from the north-west with the Aq§a Mosque 

in the background . . . . « . 277 
Anglo-Saxon gold coin imitating an Arab dinar of the year 774 316 
A twelfth- or thirteenth-century vase from al-Raqqah, once part- 

t time capital of Harun al-Rashld . 336 
An astrolabe dated a.h, 1010 (a.d. 3601-2) . . - 374 
The oldest representation of the Caesarean section . . 407 
A silver portrait coin of al-Mutawakkil . . . .416 

' The Jvlalwiyah tower of the great Mosque at Samarra, ninth 

Christian century . . . . . .418 

Stage towers, ziggurat, of the Anu-Adad temple at Ashur . 419 
The monk BahTra recognizing the prophetic mission of Mu- 
hammad ........ 4 2 * 

A scene from al-Hariri^ tnaqdmah 19 « 422 

Dinar of Ahmad ibn-Julun, Mist, a.d. 881 . . 4So 
The Alharnbra and Granada today ..... 552 

Pavilion in the Court of Lions, Alharnbra, Granada . . 590 
Carved ivory casket ....... 593 

Interior of the great Mosque of Cordova • 594 

v The Hall of the Ambassadors in the Alc&zar, Seville . . 596 
Cappella Palatina, Palermo ...... 60S 

An Arabic map of the world . . . . .611 

The coronation mantle of Roger II, ttith Kufic inscription on 

the semicircular border ..... factng 614 

1 Fajimld carved rock-crystal ewer bearing the name of the Caliph 

al-'Aziz, 10th century ...... 632 

Qal'at al-Shaqlf (Bclfort) ...... 649 

A Prankish dinar struck at *Akka in 1251 . . ♦ 658 

The ancient citadel of Aleppo ..... 660 

Interior of the Crusading church of Notre Dame at Anjartus 

(Tortosa, modem Tardus) .... * 666 

Dinar of the Marnluk Baybars , . . . .670 

The Madrasah of Q&'it-Bay, Cairo (exterior) , . . 698 
The Madrasah of Qa'it-Bay, Cairo (interior) . . .700 
The Mag of the Ottoman Empire . . . , . 709 
The Tughra, calligraphic emblem, of Sulayman the Magmticent, 

- ' bearing his name 714 

Com orAli Bey ?2I 



Muhammad 'Ah, founder of modern Egypt • ♦ -723 
Coin of Mafcrnud II . . . . • ♦ • 7*5 

Coin of Maftmud II 7 2 5 
Coin of Sulayman I ....... 727 

Fakhr-al-Dm al-Ma'ni II, amir of Lebanon 1 590-1 635 • 73° 

Coin of * Abd-al-Majrd I . . . . . -735 

Muhammad 'Abduh, modern Egyptian reformer . . • 754 


The Moslem world 5 
Arabia — land surface features . • . » .16 
Arabia of the classical authors . * . . 45 
Ptolemy's map of Arabia Felix ♦ . . • 47 
Ancient Arabia— peoples, places and routes (including the chief 

later Moslem towns) ...... 63 

The North Arabian kingdoms before Islam (including the chief 

later Moslem towns) •••••• 69 

AVlraq, Khuzistan and part of al-Jazirah between pp. $48 and 149 
Syna.— shewing tka J\um& ot rsi&toy dvstekte . , . ^5* 
Lower Egypt — illustrating the conquest and showing the 

Moslem towns . . . * , . .162 
Provinces of the Oxus and Jaxartes between pp. 208 and 209 

India— illustrating the Moslem conquest and the later kingdom 

of the Ghaznawids . . . , .211 

Empire of the caliphs, ca. 750 ..... 216 

Wbbasid caliphate, ninth century ..... 324 

The Iberian Peninsula— illustrating Moslem occupation . 495 

The Iberian Peninsula— mid4welfth century . . .522 
Morocco under the Muwahhids ..... 547 

Sicily and Southern Italy — to illustrate Moslem occupation . 603 
Islam and Christianity on the eve of the Crusades . . 634 
Crusading States of Syria, ca. 1140 .... 642 

The Mamluk kingdom ...... 684 

The Ottoman Empire at its height, ca. 1550 between pp. 716 and 717 





Of all the lands comparable to Arabia in size, and of all the cidm* 
peoples approaching the Arabs in historical interest and im- 0 £ t ££ t 
portance, no country and no nationality have perhaps received 
so little consideration and study in modern times as have Arabia 
and the Arabs 

Here is a country that is about one-fourth the area of Europe, 
one-third the size of the United States of America, yet what is 
known about it is out of all proportion to what is unknown. We 
are beginning to know more, comparatively speaking, about the 
Arctic and Antarctic regions than we do about most of Arabia. 

As the probable cradle of the Semitic family the Arabian pen- 
insula nursed those peoples who later migrated into the Fertile 
Crescent and subsequently became the Babylonians, the As- 
syrians, the Phoenicians and the Hebrews of history. As the 
plausible fount of pure Semitism, the sandy soil of the peninsula 
is the place wherein the rudimentary elements of Judaism, and 
consequently of Christianity — together with the origin of those 
traits which later developed into the well-delineated Semitic 
character— should be sought for. In medieval times Arabia 
gave birth to a people who conquered most of the then civilized 
world, and to a religion- — Islam — which still claims the ad- 
herence ol some lour hundred and fifty millions ot people repre- 
senting nearly a)l the races and manv different climes. Every 
eighth person in our world today is a follower of Muhammad, 
and the Moslem call to prayer rings out through most of the 
twenty-four hours of the day, encircling the larger portion of the 
globe" in its warm belt. 

Around the name of the Arabs gleams that halo which be- 
longs to the world-conquerors. Within a century after their rise 
^ this people became the masters of an empire extending from the 
shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the confines of China, an empire 





greater than that of Rome at its zenith. In this period of un- 
precedented expansion they "assimilated to their creed, speech, 
and even physical type, more aliens than any stock before or 
since, not excepting the Hellenic, the Roman, the Anglo-Saxon, 
or the Russian". 1 

It was not only an empire that the Arabs built, but a culture 
as well. Heirs of the ancient civilization that flourished on the 
banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates, in the land of the Nile 
and on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, they likewise 
absorbed and assimilated the main features of the Greco- 
Roman culture, and subsequently acted as a medium for trans- 
mitting to medieval Europe many of those intellectual in- 
fluences which ultimately resulted in the awakening of the 
Western world and in setting it on the road towards its modern 
renaissance. No people in the Middle Ages contributed to 
human progress so much as did the Arabians and the Arabic- 
speaking peoples. 2 

The religion of the Arabians, after Judaism and Christianity, 
is the third and latest monotheistic religion. Historically it is an 
offshoot of these other two, and of all faiths it comes nearest 
to being their next of kin. All three are the product of one 
spiritual life, the Semitic life. A faithful Moslem could with but 
few scruples subscribe to most of the tenets of Christian belief. 
Islam has been and still is a living force from Morocco to Indo- 
nesia and a way of life to millions of the human race. 

The Arabic language today is the medium of daily expression 
for some hundred million people. For many centuries in the 
Middle Ages it was the language of learning and culture and 
progressive thought throughout the civilized world. Between the 
ninth and the twelfth centuries more works, philosophical, 
medical, historical, religious, astronomical and geographical, 
were produced through the medium of Arabic than through any 
other tongue. The languages of Western Europe still bear the 
impress of its influence in the form of numerous loan-words. Its 
alphabet, next to the Latin, is the most widely used system in the 
world. It is the one employed by Persian, Afghan, Urdu, and a 
number of Turkish, Berber and Malayan languages. 

1 P. G. Hogarth, The Penetration of Arabia (New York, 1904), p. 7* 
■ On the distinction between Arabians and Arabs (Arabic-speaking peoples) as 
used in this book see below, p. 43, n. 3. 




The Babylonians, the Chaldaeans, the Hittites, the Phoenicians 
were, but are no more. The Arabians and the Arabic-speaking 
peoples were and remain. They stand today as they stood in the 
past m a most strategic geographical position astride one of the 
greatest arteries of world trade. Currently their international 
position is importantly medial in the tug of cold war between 
East and West. In their soil arc treasured the world's greatest 
stores of liquid energy, oil, first discovered in 1932. Since World 
War I these peoples have been nationally aroused and have 
achieved full independence. For the first time since the rise of 
Islam most of the Arabian peninsula has been consolidated under 
one rule, the Su*udi. Egypt, after experiencing a period of 
monarchy, declared in 1952 in favour of the republican form. 
In this it followed Syria — whose capital Damascus was once the 
seat of the glorious Umayyad empire — which seven years earlier 
had freed itself from the French mandate. Al- f Iraq, after in- 
stalling a king in Baghdad, kingless since 'Abbasid days, 
abolished the monarchy and declared itself a republic. Lebanon 
was the first to adopt the republican form. Transjordan and a 
part of Palestine developed in 1949 into the Hashimite Kingdom 
of Jordan. In North Africa Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and 
Algeria shook off the French and Libya the Italian tutelage in the 
1950s and 1960s. The phoenix, a bird of Araby, is rising again. 
Modem Classical Europe knew southern Arabia: Herodotus, among 
^^ >ra * others, mentions its western coast. The chief interest of the 
Greeks and the Romans lay in the fact that the South Arabians 
inhabited the frankincense and spice land and acted as a con- 
necting link with the markets of India and Somaliland. But late 
medieval and early modern Europe forgot Arabia in great part 
and had in recent times to discover it anew. The pioneers were 
adventurers, Christian missionaries, traders, French and British 
officers attached to the Egyptian expeditions between 18 It and 
1836, political emissaries and scientific explorers. 

The first modern scholar to describe the land was Carsten 
Niebuhr, a member of a scientific expedition sent by the king of 
Denmark in 1761. Al-Yaman in South Arabia, the part best 
known to classical Europe, was the first to be rediscovered. The 
north-western part of the peninsula, centring m al-y tjaz, though 
geographically nearer to Europe, was left to the end. Down to 
the present day no more than a dozen Europeans of those who 

ch,i> ' ^ THE ARABS AS SEMITES - ^ * 7 

, left records have succeeded in penetrating into this religiously* 

In 1812 Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss, discovered 
Petra for the learned world, and under the name Ibrahim ibn- 
'Abdullah visited Makkah and al-Madinah. His description of 
the places visited has hardly since been improved upon. Burck- 
hardt's Moslem tomb stands today in the great cemetery of 
Cairo. The only other European until 192$ who had a chance to 
study Makkah in its normal life was Professor Snouck Hur- 
gronje of Leyden, who was there in 1 885-6. In 1845 a young 
Finno-Swedish scholar, George Augustus Wallin, paid a visit 
to Najd for linguistic study. Napoleon III, after withdrawing his 
troops from Lebanon in 1861, sought a new sphere of influence 
in central Arabia and thereinto sent, two years later, an English- 
man, William Gilford Palgrave, who was a Jew by birth and 
who at that time, as a member of the Jesuit order, was stationed 
at Zahlah, Lebanon. Palgrave claimed that he covered more 
ground south of Najd than he actually did. In 1853 Sir Richard 
F. Burton, famous as the translator of The Arabian Nights^ 
visited the holy cities as a pilgrim — al-Hajj 'Abdullah, Lady 
Anne Blunt, one of two European women to penetrate north 
Arabia, reached (1879) Najd on several odd missions, including 
the quest of Arabian horses. In 1875 an Englishman, Charles M* 
Doughty, traversed northern Arabia as a "Nasrany" (Christian) 
and "Engleysy 11 . His record of the journey, Travels in Arabia 
Destrta, has become a classic of English literature. T. E< 
Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom has been greeted as a work 
of special merit in the literature of the first World War. Among 
the latest explorers may be mentioned a Czechoslovak, Alois 
Musil, who specialized on the northern territory; and among the 
recent travellers, the Lebanese-American Ameen Rihani, who 
interviewed all the kings of the peninsula, and Eldon Rutter, who 
visited Makkah and al-Madfnah in 1925-6. A special reference 

r should be made to the brave feat of Bertram Thomas, the young 
English orientalist, who in January 1 931 crossed for the first time 

1 the great southern desert of Arabia, ai-Rab* al Khah, and bared 
one of the largest blank spots left on the world's map His adven~ 
' tare, was matched by H. StJ B, Philby, aUHajj f Abdullah, 

^ who, starting at al-Hufuf tiear the Persian Gulf on January 7, 

' *93 2 * crossed ftl-Rab* al-Khali from east to west in ninety days. 




The IJimyarite inscriptions which afforded us the first oppor- 
tunity to hear what the South Arabians had to say about them- 
selves were discovered by a Frenchman disguised as a Jewish 
beggar from Jerusalem, Joseph Haldvy, 1869-70, and by an 
Austrian Jew, Eduard Glaser, between 1882 and 1894 (see below, 
p. 5 1). The copious but late and not fully authentic Islamic litera- 
ture in Arabic, the sporadic Greek and Latin references and the 
few hieroglyphic and cuneiform statements in the annals of the 
Pharaohs and the kings of Assyro-Babylonia, supplemented by 
the recently deciphered ftimyante material and by the reports 
of the modern travellers and explorers, constitute our chief 
sources of knowledge of ancient Arabia. 
Ethnic Of the two surviving representatives of the Semitic people, 
ship "Si Arabians, in a larger measure than the Jews, have preserved 
Semites the characteristic physical features and mental traits of the 
family. Their language, though the youngest among the Semitic 
group from the point of view of literature, has, nevertheless, 
conserved more of the peculiarities of the mother Semitic tongue 
— including the inflection — than the Hebrew and its other sister 
languages. It therefore affords the best key for the study of the 
Semitic languages Islam, too, in its original form is the logical 
perfection of Semitic religion. In Europe and America the word 
"Semite" has come to possess a primarily Jewish connota- 
tion, and that on account of the wide dispersion of the Jews 
in these continents The "Semitic features" often referred to, 
including the prominent nose, are not Semitic at all. They are 
exactly the characteristics which differentiate the Jew from 
the Semitic type and evidently represent an acquisition from 
early intermarriages between the Hittite-Hurrians and the 
Hebrews. 1 

The reasons which make the Arabian Arabs, particularly the 
nomads, the best representatives of the Semitic family biologic- 
ally, psychologically, socially and linguistically should be sought 
in their geographical isolation and in the monotonous uniformity 
of desert life Ethnic purity is a reward of the most ungrateful 
and isolated environment, such as central Arabia affords. The 
Arabians call their habitat Jazirat al-Arab, "the Island of the 
Arabs", and an island it is, surrounded by water on three sides 

1 George A Barton, Semitic and Hamttie Ortgins (Philadelphia , 1934), pp 85*7, 
Ignace J. Gelb, Humans and Subenans (Chicago, 1944), pp, 69-70 


and by sand-on the fourtli. This "island** furnishes an almost 
unique example of uninterrupted relationship between populace 

vand soil; If any immigrations have ever taken place thereinto 
resulting In successive waves of settlers ousting or submerging 
one another—as in the case of India, Greece, Italyy England and 
the United States — history has left us no record thereof Nor do 
we know of any invader who succeeded in penetrating the sandy 
barriers and establishing a permanent foothold in this land. The 
people of Arabia have remained virtually the same throughout 
all the recorded ages, 1 

The term Semite comes from Shem in the Old Testament 
(Gen, 10 : i) through the Latin of the Vulgate. The traditional 
explanation that the so-called Semites are descended from the 
eldest son of Noah, and therefore racially homogeneous, is no 
longer accepted. Who are the Semites then? 

If we consult a linguistic map of Western Asia we find Syria, 
Palestine, Arabia proper and al-'Iraq populated at the present 
time by Arabic-speaking peoples. If we then review our ancient 
history we remember that beginning with the middle of the 
fourth millennium before our era the Babylonians (first called 
Akkadians after their capital Akkadu, Agade), the Assyrians and 
later the Chaldaeans occupied the Tigro- Euphrates valley; after 

"2500 B.C. the Amorites and Canaanites (including the Phoeni- 
cians) populated Syria; and about 1 500 B.C. the Aramaeans settled 
in Syria and the Hebrews in Palestine. Down to the nineteenth 
century the medieval and modern world did not realize that all 
these peoples were closely related. With the decipherment of the 

* Cuneiform writing in the middle of the nineteenth century and 
the comparative study of the Assyro-Babylonian, Hebrew, 
Aramaic, Arabic and Ethiopia tongues it was found that those 
languages had striking points of similarity and were therefore 
cognates. In the case of each one of these languages the verbal 
stem is triconsonantal; the tense has only two forms, perfect and 
Itnpeifect; the conjugation of the verb follows the same model. 
The elements of the vocabulary, including the personal pro- 
nouns, nouns (denoting blood-kinship, numbers and certain 

* names of members of the body, are' almost alike. A scrutiny of 
^thc social institutions and religious beliefs and a comparison of 

, 3 C£ Strain Thomas in "The Kter £ast and htdtc (London, flfov, x, 1928), 
pp. 5i6*9;*C< Kathjens In Journal an&lt^iut, cexv. No 1 (1929), pp 141-55 > 



the physical features of the peoples who spoke these languages 
have revealed likewise impressive points of resemblance. The 
linguistic kinship is, therefore, but a manifestation of a well- 
marked general unity of type. This type was characterized by 
deep religious instinct, vivid imagination, pronounced individu- 
ality and marked ferocity. The inference is inescapable: the 
ancestors of these various peoples — Babylonians, Assyrians, 
Chaldaeans, Amorites, Aramaeans, Phoenicians, Hebrews, 
Arabians and Abyssinians — before they became thus differen- 
tiated must have lived at some time in the same place as one 

Arabia, Where was the original home of this people? Different hypo- 
o^r^ theses have been worked out by various scholars. There are 
Semites those who, considering the broad ethnic relationship between 
Semites and Hamites, hold that eastern Africa was the original 
home; others, influenced by Old Testament traditions, maintain 
that Mesopotamia provided the first abode; but the arguments in 
favour of the Arabian peninsula, considered in their cumulative 
effect, seem most plausible The Mesopotamian theory is vitiated 
by the fact that it assumes passage of people from an agricultural 
stage of development on the banks of a river to a nomadic stage, 
which is the reverse of the sociological law in historic times. The 
African theory raises more questions than it answers. 

The surface of Arabia is mostly desert with a narrow margin 
of habitable land round the periphery. The sea encircles this 
periphery. When the population increases beyond the capacity 
of the land to support it the surplus must seek elbow room. But 
this surplus cannot expand inward because of the desert, nor 
outward on account of the sea — a barrier which in those days 
was well-nigh impassable. The overpopulation would then find 
one route open before it on the western coast of the peninsula 
leading northward and forking at the Sinaitic peninsula to the 
fertile valley of the Nile. Around 3500 B.C. a Semitic migration 
followed this route, or took the east African route northward, 
planted itself on top of the earlier Hamitic population of Egypt 
and the amalgamation produced the Egyptians of history. These 
are the Egyptians who laid down so many of the basic elements 
in our civilization. It was they who first built stone structures 
and developed a solar calendar. At about the same time a parallel 
migration followed the eastern route northward and struck root 


in the Tigro-Euphrates valley, already populated by a highly 
civilized community/ the Sumerians. 1 The Semites enteretLthe 
valley as barbarian nomads, but learned from the Sumerians, 
the originators of the Euphratean civilization, how to build and 
live in* homes, how to irrigate the land and above all how to 
write. The Sumerians were a non-Semitic people. The admixture 
of the two races here gave us the Babylonians, who share with the 
Egyptians the honour of laying down the fundamentals of our 
cultural heritage. Among other innovations, the Babylonians be- 
queathed to us the arch and the vault (probably of Sumerian * 
origin), the wheeled cart and a system of weights and measures* 
About the middle of the third millennium before Christ 
another Semitic migration brought the Amorites into the Fertile 
Crescent The component elements of the Amorites included the 
Canaanites (who occupied western Syria and Palestine after 
2500 B C*) and the coastal people called by the Greeks Phoeni- 
cians These Phoenicians were the first people to popularize an 
exclusively alphabetic system of writing, comprising twenty-two 
signs, properly styled the greatest invention of mankind (c£ 
belotf, p. 71). 

Between 1 500 and 1200 B*C* the Hebrews made their way into 
southern Syria, Palestine, and the Aramaeans (Syrians) into the 
north, particularly Coele-Syria* 2 The Hebrews, before any other 
people, revealed to the world the clear idea of one God, and their 
monotheism became the tirigin of Christian and Moslem belief. 

About 500 B.C. the Nabataeans established themselves north- 
east of the Sinaitic peninsula. The height to which their civiliza- 
tion later attained under Roman influence may be gauged by the 
magnificent ruins of their rock-hewn capital, Petra. 

The seventh century of our era saw a new and final migration 
under the banner of Islam, in the course of which the dam broke 
and not only the lands of the Fertile Crescent, the region form- 
ing an kre between the head of the Persian Gulf and the south- 
east corner of the Mediterranean Sea, but even Egypt, northern 
Africa, Spain, Persia and parts of central Asia were flooded. 3 

This last migration, which took place within the full light of 
history, is cited as an historical argument by the supporters of 

1 Cfl a Leonard Waclky, The Sumnans (Oxford, 1929), pp. 5 6. 
Holloa Syna, modern a]*Biqa', between the two Lcbanons. 
n> H JS°, Wrockl «^ The Xutory 0/ babylonia end Astyna, tr. James A. Craig 
(New Vorl-, 1907), pp, i8. 22 . 




the theory of Arabia as the Semitic home; they further reinforce 
their case by the observation that the Arabians have preserved 
the Semitic traits more purely and have manifested them more 
distinctly than any other members of that racial group, and that 
their language is most nearly akin to what scholars believe the 
primitive form of Semitic speech to have been. 

A comparative examination of the dates quoted above sug- 
gested to certain Semitists the notion that in recurrent cycles of 
approximately one thousand years Arabia, like a mighty reser- 
voir, became populated to the point where overflow was inevit- 
able. These same scholars would speak of the migrations in 
terms of 1 'waves* r . It is more likely, however, that these Semitic 
movements partook in their initial stages more of the nature of 
the European migrations into the New World: a few persons 
would start moving, others would follow, then many more would 
go, until a general popular interest was aroused in the idea of 

This transplantation en masse or in bands of human groups 
from a pastoral desert region to an agricultural territory con- 
stitutes a common phenomenon in the Near East and provides 
an important clue to the understanding of its long and checkered 
history. The process by which a more or less migratory people 
imposes itself upon a people which has become rooted in the soil 
usually results in the invaders assimilating to some degree the 
main features of the previously existing civilization and in 
infusing a certain amount of its blood, but hardly ever in the 
extermination of the indigenous population. This is exactly 
what happened in the ancient Near East, whose history is to 
a certain extent a struggle between the sedentary population 
already domiciled in the Fertile Crescent and the nomadic 
Arabians trying to dispossess them. For immigration and colon- 
ization are, as has been well said, an attenuated form of invasion. 

It should be noted in connection with these migrations that 
in almost every case the Semitic tongue survived. This is a de- 
termining factor. If in Mesopotamia, for example, the aggluti- 
native Sumerian language had survived it would have been 
difficult for us to classify the people of the valley as Semitic. In 
the case of the ancient Egyptians a Semito-Hamitic language 
evolved, and we cannot very well include the Egyptians among 
the Semites. The term "Semite", therefore, has more linguistic 

" ch/i * : \ < ^ ¥ THE ARABS AS SEMITES 

"than ethnological implication, and the Assyro-Babylonian, Ara~ 
maic, Hebrew, Phoenician, South Arabic, Ethiopic and Arabic 
languages should be viewed as dialects developing out of one 
common tongue, the UrscntitiscL A parallel may be found in the 
case of the Romance languages in their relation to Latin, with 
the exception that some form of Latin has survived, in literature 
at least, to the present day, whereas the Semitic archetype, only 
a spoken language, has entirely passed away, though its general 
character may be inferred from whatever points are found 
common to its surviving daughters. 

Accepting Arabia — Najd or al-Yaman — as the homeland and 
distributing centre of the Semitic peoples does not preclude the 
possibility of their having once before, at a very early date, con- 
stituted with another member of the white race, the Hamites, 
one community somewhere in eastern Africa; it was from this 
community that those who were later termed Semites crossed 
over into the Arabian peninsula, possibly at Bab al-Mandab, 1 
This would make Africa the probable Semito-Hamitic home and 
Arabia the cradle of the Semitic people and the centre of their 
distribution. The Fertile Crescent was the scene of the Semitic 

Barton, p. 37 


-rue ARABIA is the south-western peninsula of Asia, the largest pen- 
settia&of i nsu i a on the map. Its area of 1,027,000 square miles holds an 
,esta|re estimated population of only fourteen millions. Su'udi Arabia, 
with an area (exclusive of al-Rab* al-Khali) of 597,000 square 
miles, claims some seven millions; al-Yaman five millions; al- 
Kuwayt, Qatar, the trucial shaykhdoms, *Uman and Masqat, 
Aden and the Aden protectorate the rest. Geologists tell us 
that the land once formed the natural continuation of the 
Sahara (now separated from it by the rift of the Nile valley and 
the great chasm of the Red Sea) and of the sandy belt which 
traverses Asia through central Persia and the Gobi Desert. In 
earlier times the Atlantic westerlies, which now water the high- 
lands of Syria-Palestine, must have reached Arabia undrained, 
and during a part of the Ice Age these same desert lands must 
have been pre-eminently habitable grasslands. Since the ice sheet 
never extended south of the great mountains in Asia Minor, 
Arabia was never made uninhabitable by glaciation. Its deep, 
dry wadi beds still bear witness to the erosive powers of the rain- 
water that once flowed through them. The northern boundary 
is ill-defined, but may be considered an imaginary line drawn 
due east from the head of the Gulf of al-'Aqabah in the Red 
Sea to the Euphrates. Geologically, indeed, the whole Syro- 
Mesopotamian desert is a part of Arabia. 

The peninsula slopes away from the west to the Persian Gulf 
and the Mesopotamian depression. Its backbone is a range of 
mountains running parallel to the western coast and rising to a 
height of over 9000 feet in Midian on the north and 14,000 in 
al-Yaman on the south. 1 Al-Sarah in al-Hijaz reaches an eleva- 
tion of 10,000 feet. From this backbone the eastern fall is gradual 
and long; the western, towards the Red Sea, is steep and short. 
The southern sides of the peninsula, where the sea has been 

1 The highest measured pomt; Carl Rathjens and Hermann v. Wissmann, 
Sudarabiens foise, vol m, Landcskundhckc Ergrbnme (Hamburg, 1934), p 2 



receding from the coast at a rate reckoned at seventy-two feet 
peryear, are fringed by lowlands, the Tihamahs, Najd, the north 
central plateau, has a mean elevation of 2500 feet Its mountain 
range, Shimmar, lifts one red granite peak, Aja\ $$50 feet above 
the sea-level. Behind the coastal lowlands rise ranges of various 
heights on all three sides. In *Uman, on the eastern coast, the 
summits of al-Jabai al-Akh^ar soar to a height of 9900 feet, 
forming one notable exception to the general eastward decline of 
the surface of the land. 

With the exception of the mountains and highlands just dis- 
cussed the land consists mainly of desert and steppe. The steppes 
(sing, darak) are circular plains between hills covered with sand 
and embosoming subterranean waters. The so-called Syrian 
desert, Badiyat ai-Sha*m,as well as the Mesopotamian desert, are 
mostly stepp&and. The southern part of the Syrian desert is col- 
loquially known as aH-Iamad> The southern part of the Meso- 
potamian steppeland is often referred to as Badiyat al-'Iraq or 

Of the desert land three varieties may be distinguished: 
K The great Nufud, a tract of white or reddish sand blown 
into high banks or dunes and covering a vast area in North 
Arabia* The classical term is aUbddiyak t sometimes al~daAna** 
Though dry except for an occasional oasis, al-Nufud receives in 
some vritaters enough rain to cover it with a carpet of verdure 
.and convert it into a paradise for the camels and sheep of the 
wandering Bedouin* Among the first of the dozen Europeans who 
have succeeded in traversing the Nufud are the French Alsatian, 
Charlesftuber(i$78); the Englishdiplomatist and poet, Wilfrid S. 
4 Blunt(i879); and the Strassburg orientalist, Julius Euting(r883). 

L Al-Dahna* (the red land), a surface of red sand, extends 
from the great Nufud in the north to al-Rab* al-Khali in the 
south, describing a great arc to the south-east and stretching a 
/distance of over six hundred miles. Its western part is sometimes 
^distinguished as ai-Ahqaf (dune land). On older maps al-Dahna* 
is'usually indicated as <il-Rab* al-Khali (the vacant quarter). 
When al-Dahna* receives seasonal rains, it abounds in pasturage 
attractive to the Bedouins and their cattle for several months a 
year, but in summer-time the region is void of the breath of life. 
Before Bertram Thomas 1 no European ever ventured to cross 
: { l /* 4r^ w Fehx; Actpss tkt Empty Quarter of Arabia (New Y ork, 1932). 


al-Rab' al-Rhali, "no man's land" ofXrabia. Arabian American 
1 Oil Company parked its 2^0,000 square miles on its maps, 
Thomas crossed it in fifty-eight days from the Arabian Sea to 
" the Persian Gulf, encountered the phenomenon of singing sands 
and discovered a "lake of salt water", in reality an arm of the 
Pcrsian'Gulf in the south of Qatar. Until then our knowledge 
of the dreaded and mysterious waste of South Arabia was no 
more than that of the tenth-century geographers. 

3, Al-ftarrah, a surface of corrugated and fissured lavas 
overlying sandstone. Volcanic tracts of this type abound in the 
western and central regions of the peninsula and extend north 
as far as eastern Ilawran. Yaqut 1 lists no less than thirty such 
tiarrahs. The last volcanic eruption reported by an Arab his- 
torian took place in A.B. 1256. 

Within this ring of desert and steppe lies an elevated core, 
Najd, the Wahhabiland, In Najd the limestone has long been 
generally exposed; here and there are occasional strips of sand. 
Mt. Shammar consists of granite and basalt rock. 

Arabia is one of the driest and hottest of countries. Though ci 
sandwiched between seas on the east and west, those bodies of *° 
water are too narrow to break the climatic continuity of the 
Africo-Asian rainless continental masses. The ocean on the south, 
to' be sure, does bring rains, but the simoom (samum) which 
seasonally lashes the land leaves very little moisture for the in- 
terior. The bracing and delightful east wind {al-saba)htis always 
provided a favourite theme for Arabian poets. 

In al-$ ijaz, the birthplace of Islam, seasons of drought extend- 
ing possibly over a period of three or more years are not un- 
known* Rainstorms of short duration and extraordinary violence 
may strike Makkah and al-Madlnah and occasionally threaten 
to overthrow the Ka'bah; al-Baladhuri 2 devotes a whole chapter 
to the floods (stiytll) of Makkah. Subsequent to these rains the 
hardy pastoral flora of the desert makes its appearance. In north- 
ern al-ljijaz the isolated oases, the largest covering an area of 
some ten square miles, are the only support of settled life. Five- 
sixths of the population of al-rjfijaz is nomadic. Certain oases, 
such as Fadak (now al-Ha*it), which figured in early Islam, are 

' I a*-*?? *lBumn % od F WdstenfcH (Lciprig, 1866-73), m*** 

FMM at~£uld&t t cd dc Goeje (Leyden, t866), pp. 53*5; tr, Philip K Hitb, 
i*t Vn&xs *f the Mame State (New York, igt6, reprint Beirut, 1966), pp. $2-4. 



today of no significance. Most of these fertile tracts were culti- 
vated at the time of the Prophet by Jews. The mean annual 
temperature in the IJijaz lowland is nearer 90 0 than 8o° F. Al- 
MadTnah, with a mean temperature of little over 70 0 F., is more 
healthful than its sister to the south, Makkah. 

Only in al-Yaman and c AsTr are there sufficient periodic rains 
to warrant a systematic cultivation of the soil. Perennial vegeta- 
tion is here found in favoured valleys to a distance of about two 
hundred miles from the coast. San*a', the modern capital of al- 
Yaman, is over 7000 feet above the sea and therefore one of the 
healthiest and most beautiful towns of the peninsula. Other 
fertile but not continuous tracts are found on the coast. The 
surface of JJadramawt is marked by deeply sunk valleys where 
water is abundant in the subsoil. *Uman, the easternmost pro- 
vince, receives a fair supply of rain. Especially hot and humid are 
Juddah (Jedda), al-ljudaydah (Hodeida) and Masqat (Muscat). 

Arabia cannot boast a single river of significance which flows 
perennially and reaches the sea. None of its streams are navi- 
gable. In place of a system of rivers it has a network of wadis 
which carry away such floods as occur. These wadis serve 
another purpose: they determine the routes for the caravans and 
the pilgrimages. Since the rise of Islam the pilgrimages have 
formed the principal link between Arabia and the outer world. 
The chief land routes are from Mesopotamia, by way of Buray- 
dah in Najd, following the Wadi al-Rummah, and from Syria, 
passing through Wadi al-Sirhan and skirting the Red Sea coast. 
The in trap en insular routes are either coastal, fringing nearly 
the whole peninsula, or transpeninsular, running from south- 
west to north-east through the central oases and avoiding the 
stretch between, namely, the Vacant Quarter. 

The tenth-century geographer al-Istakhri 1 speaks of only one 
place in al-rjlijaz, the mountain near al-Ta'if, where water freezes. 
Al-Hamdani* refers to frozen water in San'a*. To these places 
Glaser 3 adds Mt» tjadur al-Shaykh, in al-Yaman, where snow 
mils almost every winter. Frost is more widespread. 
h The dryness of the atmosphere and the salinity of the soil 

1 Masalsk txl-Mcmohk, ed. de Gocje (Leyden, 1870), p. 19, 1L 12-13. 

- Ahlklil, Bk. VIII, cd. Nabih A. Fans (Princeton, 1940), p. 7; see also Nazih 
M. al-'A^m, Ritfah fi BtlSd al-Arah ahSaideth (Cairo, 1 937?), pt I, p. II 8. 

* In A, Peterroann, Mtttetlungen aus Justus Perthes geographischer AnstaU, 
*ol. 32 (Gotha, 1886) , p. 43. 



militate against the possibility of any luxuriant growth. Al-Hijaz 
is rich in dates. Wheat grows in al-Yaman and certain oases. 
Barley is cultivated for horses. Millet (dhurak) grows in certain 
regions, and rice in 'Uman and al-rjasa. On the highlands parallel 
to the southern coast, and particularly in Mahrah, the frankin- 
cense tree, which figured prominently in the early commercial life 
of South Arabia, still flourishes. A characteristic product of *AsIr 
is gum-arabic. The coffee plant, for which al-Yaman is now 
famous, was introduced into South Arabia in the fourteenth cen- 
tury from Abyssinia. The earliest reference to this "wine of Islam** 
is in the writings of the sixteenth century. 1 The earliest known 
mention of coffee by a European writer was in 1585, 

Of the trees of the desert several species of acacia, including 
dthl (tamarisk) and ghada, which gives excellent charcoal, are 
found. Another species, talk, yields gum-arabic. The desert also 
produces samh, the grains of which give a flour used for porridge, 
and the eagerly sought truffle and senna (al-sana). 

Among the domestic plants the grape-vine, introduced from 
Syria after the fourth Christian century, is well represented in 
al-Ta'if, and yields the alcoholic beverage styled nabtdh al~ 
zabib* The wine (khatnr), however, sung by the Arabic poets, 
was the brand imported from IJawrSn and the Lebanon. The 
olive tree, native in Syria, is unknown in al-IJijaz. Other pro* 
ducts of the Arabian oases are pomegranates, apples, apricots, 
almonds, oranges, lemons, sugar-cane, water-melons and bananas. 
The Nabataeans and Jews were probably the ones responsible 
for the introduction of such fruit trees from the north. 

Among the Arabian flora the date-palm tree is queen. It bears 
the most common and esteemed fruit: the fruit ifamr) par 
excellence. Together with milk it provides the chief item on the 
menu of the Bedouin, and, except for camel flesh, is his only solid 
food Mts fermented beverage is the much-sought nabtdh. Its 
crushed istones furnish the cakes which are the everyday meal 
of the camel. To possess "the two black ones" (al-aswadan)* 
i.c« water and dates, is the dream of every Bedouin. The Prophet 
is reported to have enjoined, H Honour your aunt, the palm, 
which was made of the same clay as AdanV\ s Arab authors list 

< 1 Sec &}nzm m dc Sacy, Chrcstomathu crahe, 2nd ed, (Pans, 1826), vol j, 

CoasuUibnQulaybah, f ^u« c /^^r (Cairo, 1930), vol m t pp 209-13 
Al*Suyut», ffutn *!-Af»k£fare)k (Cairo, 1321}, vol «, p 255 




a hundred varieties of dates in and around al-Madmah. 

Even this queen of Arabian trees must have been introduced 
from the north, from Mesopotamia, where the palm tree was 
the chief object which attracted early man thither. The Arabic 
vocabulary in Najd and al-I;I ijaz relating to agriculture, e.g. bdl 
(watered by rain only), 1 akkdr (ploughman), etc., indicates bor- 
rowing from the northern Semites, particularly the Aramaeans. 
Fauna The animal kingdom is represented by panthers (sing. namir) % 
leopards (sing. fahd) > hyenas, wolves, foxes and lizards (especi- 
ally al-dabb). The lion, frequently cited by the ancient poets of 
the peninsula, is now extinct. Monkeys are found in al-Yaman. 
Among the birds of prey eagles QugdS), bustards (/tubdra, 
houbara), falcons, hawks and owls may be counted. Crows are 
abundant. The most common birds are the hoopoe (hudhud) % 
lark, nightingale, pigeon and a species of partridge celebrated 
in Arabic literature under the name aUqata? 

Of domestic animals the principal ones are the camel, the ass, 
the ordinary watch-dog, the greyhound (saliiqi), the cat, the 
sheep and the goat. The mule is said to have been introduced 
from Egypt after the Hijrah by Muhammad. 

The desert yields locusts, which the Bedouin relishes, especially 
when roasted with salt. Locust plagues are reputed to appear 
every seventh year. Of reptiles the Nufud boasts, by all accounts, 
the horned viper. Lawrence 3 speaks with horror of his experience 
with the snakes in Wadi al-Sirhan. 
The Renowned as it has become in Moslem literature, the horse 

£jj£ ,an was nevertheless a late importation into ancient Arabia. This 
animal, for which Najd is famous, was not known to the early 
Semites. Domesticated in early antiquity somewhere east of the 
Caspian Sea by nomadic Indo-European herdsmen, it was later 
imported on a large scale by the Kassites and Hittites and 
through them made its way, two millenniums before Christ, into 
Western Asia. From Syria it was introduced before the beginning 
of our era into Arabia, where it had the best opportunity to 
keep its blood pure and free from admixture. The Hyksos passed 
the horse on from Syria into Egypt and the Lydians from Asia 
Minor into Greece, where it was immortalized by Phidias on the 

* See below, p. 97. 

* See K. Meiwirtzhagcn, Tht Birds of Arabia (Edinburgh, 1954). 

* T. E. Lawrence, Sezen Ptllars <?/ Wisdcm (New York, 1936), pp. 36970. 


Parthenon.,, In the Egyptian, Assyro-Babylonian and early 
Persian records the Arabian appears as a cameleer, not as a 
cavalier. The camel, rather than the horse, figured in the tributes 
exacted by the Assyrian conquerors from the "Urbi". 1 In 
Xerxes' army, intent upon the conquest of Greece, the Arabs 
rode camels,* Strabo, 5 presumably on the authority of his friend 
Aelius Galius, the Roman general who invaded Arabia as late 
as 24 B.C., denies the existence of the horse in the peninsula. 

Renowned for its physical beauty, endurance, intelligence 
and touching devotion to its master, the Arabian thoroughbred 
(kufraylan) is the exemplar from which all Western ideas about 
the good-breeding of horseflesh have been derived. In the eighth 
century the Arabs introduced it into Europe through Spain, 
where it left permanent traces in its Barbary and Andalusian 
descendants.* During the Crusades the English horse received 
fresh strains of blood through contact with the Arab, 

In Arabia the horse is an animal of luxury whose feeding and 
care constitutes a problem to the man of the desert. Its possession 
is a presumption of wealth. Its chief value lies in providing the 
speed necessary for the success of a Bedouin raid (ghasw). It is 
also used for sports: in tournament (jartd), coursing and hunting. 
In an Arab camp today in case of shortage of water the children 
might cry for a drink, but the master, unmoved, would pour 
the last drop into a pail to set before the horse. 

If the horse is the most noble of the conquests of man. the The 
camel is certainly from the nomad's point of view the most um 
useful* Without it the desert could not be conceived of as a 
habitable place. The camel is the nomad's nourisher, his vehicle 
of transportation and his medium of exchange. The dowry of 
the bride, the price of blood, the profit of maysir (gambling), 
the wealth of a sheikh, are all computed in terms of camels. 
It is the Bedouin's constant companion, his alter ego, his foster 
parent. He drinks its milk instead of water (which he spares for 
> the cattle); he feasts on its flesh; he covers himself with its skin; 
he^ makes his tent of its hair. Its dung he uses as fuel, and its 
Urine as a hair tonic and medicine. To him the camel is more 
than "the ship of the desert"; it is the special gift of Allah (cf, 

% Herodotus, History, Bk VII, cb. 86, § 8 
\ £tT^'* Bk XVI > ch < 4, §§ 2 & 26, 
Wsffiaxa R. Brown, The Hers* of the Desert (New York, im)> PP- 1*3 




Koran 16 : 5*8). To quote a striking phrase of Sprenger, 1 the 
Bedouin is "the parasite of the camel". The Bedouins of our day 
take delight in referring to themselves as akl al-hcttr^ the people 
of the camel. Musil 3 states that there is hardly a member of the 
Ruwalah tribe who has not on some occasion drunk water from 
a camel's paunch. In time of emergency either an old camel is 
killed or a stick is thrust down its throat to make it vomit water. 
If the camel has been watered within a day or two, the liquid 
is tolerably drinkable. The part which the camel has played in 
the economy of Arabian life is indicated by the fact that the 
Arabic language is said to include some one thousand names 
for the camel in its numerous breeds and stages of growth, a 
number rivalled only by the number of synonyms used for the 
sword. The Arabian camel can go for about twenty-five days 
in winter and about five days in summer without water. The 
camel was a factor in facilitating the early Moslem conquests 
by assuring its masters more mobility than, and consequent 
advantage over, the settled peoples. The Caliph 'Umar is quoted 
as having said: "The Arab prospers only where the camel 
prospers". The peninsula remains the chief camel-breeding centre 
in the world. The horses of Najd, the donkeys of al-IJasa and 
the dromedaries of 'Urnan are world famous. In the past the 
pearl fisheries of 'Uman and the Persian Gulf region, the salt 
mines of certain areas and the camel industry were the main 
sources of income. But since the beginning of the exploitation of 
the oil-fields in 1933, the extensive activities connected with the 
oil industry have become by far the greatest source. The oil-fields 
of al-Hasa are classed among the richest in the world. 

From north-western Arabia the camel, like the horse 
originally an American animal, was introduced into Palestine 
and Syria on the occasion of the invasion of the Midianites 
in the eleventh century B.C. (Judges 6 ; 5, cf Gen. 24 : 64), the 
first record of the widespread use of this animal. 3 It was intro- 
duced into Egypt with the Assyrian conquest in the seventh cen- 
tury B.C., and into northern Africa with the Moslem invasion 
in the seventh century after Christ. 

1 XnZtitschrtft der deuischtn morgenhndisch€nGtsellschaft } yXv{\^<)\),\i ^6l, 5. 13. 

1 The Manners end Customs of the JZwala Bedouins (New York, 192S), p. 36S 
Cf, Bertram Thomas in The Near East and Indta, Nov. I, 1928, p 51S 

* Cf. Carleton S. Coon, Caravan; the Story of the Middle Bast (New York, 
1951). p. 61. 


3RRESPONDING to the twofold nature of the land, the inhabit- The 
its of Arabia fall into two mate groups: nomadic Bedouins nom 
id settled folk. The line of demarcation between the wandering 
xd the sedentary elements in the population is not always 
larply drawn. There are stages of semi-nomadism and of 
jasi-urDanity. Certain townsfolk who were at one time Bedouin 
ill betray their nomadic origin, while other Bedouins are towns- 
people in the making. The blood of the settled population is 
ius constantly refreshed by a nomadic strain* 
The Bedouin is no gypsy roaming aimlessly for the sake of 
naming. He represents the best adaptation of human life to 
eSert conditions. Wherever verdant land is found, there he goes 
eekmg pasture. Nomadism is as much a scientific mode of living 
i the Nufud as industrialism is in Detroit or Manchester. 
Action and reaction between the townsfolk and the desert 
oik are motivated by the urgent dictates of self-interest and self- 
>reservatton. The nomad insists on extracting from his more 
avourably situated neighbour such resources as he himself 
acks, and that cither by violence — raids — or by peaceful method > 
-exchange. He is land-pirate or broker* or both at once. The 
iesert, where the^ Bedouin plays the part of the pirate, shares 
:ertain common characteristics with the sea. 
^ The nomad, as a type, is today what he was yesterday and 
what he will be tomorrow. His culture pattern has always been 
the Same. Variation, progress, evolution, are not among the 
laws he readily obeys. Immune to the invasion of exotic ideas 
and manners, he still lives, as his forbears did, in tents of goats* 
or camels* hair, "houses of hair", and grazes his sheep and goats 
in thesame fashion and on the same pastures. Sheep- and camel- 
raising, and to a lesser degree horse-breeding, hunting and raid- 
ing, form his staple occupation and are to his mind the only 
occupations worthy of a man. Agriculture and all varieties of 




trade and craft are beneath his dignity. If and when he frees 
himselt from his environment he is no more a nomad. In the 
Fertile Crescent empires have come and gone, but in the barren 
wastes the Bedouin has remained for ever the same. 1 

Over all the living things of the desert the Bedouin, the camel 
and the palm are the triumvirate that rules supreme; and together 
with the sand they constitute the four great actors in the drama 
of its existence. 

To its denizen the desert is more than a habitat: it is the 
custodian of his sacred tradition, the preserver of the purity of 
his speech and blood and his first and foremost line of defence 
against encroachment from the outside world. Its scarcity of 
water, scorching heat, trackless roads, lack of food -supply — 
all enemies in normal times — prove staunch allies in time of 
danger. Little wonder then that the Arabian has rarely bent his 
neck to a foreign yoke. 

The continuity, monotony and aridity of his desert habitat 
are faithfully reflected in the Bedouin physical and mental make- 
up. Anatomically he is a bundle of nerves, bones and sinews. 
The leanness and barrenness of his land show themselves in his 
physique. His daily food is dates and a mixture of flour, or roasted 
corn, with water or milk. His raiment is as scanty as his nourish- 
ment: a long shirt Qkawb) with a belt and a flowing upper gar- 
ment (*a6a) which pictures have made familiar. The head is 
covered by a shawl (kuftyak) held by a cord (fiqdl). Trousers 
are not worn and footwear is rare. Tenacity, endurance (sabr) t 
seems to be his supreme virtue, enabling him to survive where 
almost everything else perishes. Passivity is the obverse of this 
same virtue. Passive endurance is to him preferable to any 
attempt to change the state in which he finds himself, no matter 
how hard his lot. Individualism, another characteristic trait, is 
so deeply ingrained that the Bedouin has never been able to 
raise himself to the dignity of a social being of the international 
type, much less to develop ideals of devotion to the common 
good beyond that which pertains to the tribe. Discipline, respect 
for order and authority, are no idols in desert life. "O Lord", 
prayed a Bedouin, "have mercy upon me and upon Muhammad, 
but upon no one else besides!" 2 Since the days of Ishmael the 

1 A central feature of ibn Su'ud's economic and soaal reforms is the settlement 
of nomads on the coil. 1 Abu»Da*ud, Sirtan (Cairo, 1280), vol. t, p. 89. 

CBt xa BEDOVm LIFE *5 

Arabian's hand has been against every man and every man's 
hand against him. 

The^//^^(ra2zia), otherwise considered aform of brigandage, Rank 
is raised by the economic and social conditions of desert life to 
the rank of a national institution. It lies at the base of the 
economic structure of Bedouin pastoral society. In desert land, 
where the fighting mood is a chronic mental condition, raiding 
is one of the few manly occupations, Christian tribes, too, such 
as the banu-Taghlib, practised it without any mental re- 
servations. The poet al-Qutami of the early Umayyad period 
has given expression to the guiding principle of such life in 
two verses: "Our business is to make raids on the enemy, 
on our neighbour and on our own brother, in case we find 
none to raid but a brotherl" 1 In Su'udi Arabia raids are now 

According to the rules of the game — and ghazw is a sort of 
national sport — no blood should be shed except in cases of 
extreme necessity* Gkazw does help to a certain extent to keep 
down the number of mouths to feed, though it does not actually 
increase the sum-total of available supplies. A weaker tribe or 
a sedentary settlement on the borderland may buy protection 
by paying the stronger tribe what is today called kkuwah. 
These ideas of ghazto and its terminology were carried over by 
the Arabians into the Islamic conquests. 

The principle of hospitality, however* mitigates in some 
measure the evils of ghazw* However dreadful as an enemy he 
may be, the Bedouin is also within his laws of friendship a loyal 
and generous friend. Pre-Islamic poets, the journalists of their 
day, never tired of singing the praises of diyafah (hospitality) 
which, with hamdsak (fortitude and enthusiasm) and muruah 
(manliness), 2 is considered One of the supreme virtues of the race. 
The keen competition for water and pasturage, on which the 
chief causes of conflict centre, splits the desert populace into 
warring tribes; but the common consciousness of helplessness 
in the face of a stubborn and malignant nature develops a feel- 
ing for the necessity of one sacred duty: that of hospitality. To 
Wuse a guest such a courtesy in a land where no inns or hotels 
obtain, or to harm him after accepting him as a guest, is an 

t *^^*™™*™»J sh ***'*l-iiem&s*k, ed, Fre> tag (Bonn, 1S2S), p. 171. 
Cf.lgnas Goldnhtr, MaAammedanische Studien, pt. I (Halle, 1889), p. 




offence not only against the established mores and honour but 
against God Himself, the real protector. 
Religion*- The rudiments of Semitic religion developed in the oases, 
DeM rather than in the sandy land, and centred upon stones and 
springs, forerunners of the Black Stone and Zamzam in Islam 
and of Bethel in the Old Testament. In the case of the Bedouin, 
religion sits very lightly indeed on his heart. In the judgment of 
the Koran (9 : 98), "the desert Arabians are most confirmed in 
unbelief and hypocrisy"* Up to our present day they never pay 
much more than lip homage to the prophet. 1 
The dan The clan organization is the basis of Bedouin society. Every 
tent represents a family; an encampment of tents forms a 
hayy; members of one hayy constitute a clan (aawm). A number 
of kindred clans grouped together make a tribe (qabtlah). All 
members of the same clan consider each other as of one blood, 
submit to the authority of but one chief— the senior member of 
the clan — and use one battle-cry. "Banu" (children of) is the 
title with which they prefix their joint name. The feminine names 
of certain clans show traces of the earlier matriarchal system. 
Blood relationship, fictitious or real, furnishes the adhesive 
clement in tribal organization. £ &S~ H> ^ 

The tent and its humble household contents are individual 
property, but water, pasturage and cultivable land are the 
common property of the tribe. 

If a member of a clan commits murder inside the clan, none 
will defend him. In case of escape he becomes an outlaw (tartd). 
If the murder is outside the clan, a vendetta is established, and 
any fellow clan-member may have to pay for it with his own 

Blood, according to the primitive law of the desert, calls for 
blood; no chastisement is recognized other than that of venge- 
ance. The nearest of kin is supposed to assume primary respon- 
sibility. A blood feud may last forty years, as in the case of the 
Basus War between the banu-Bakr and the banu-Taghlib. In all 
the ayy&m al-Ara&, those intertribal battles of pre-Islamic days, 
the chroniclers emphasize the blood feud motif, though under- 
lying economic reasons must have motivated many of the events. 
Sometimes a bloodwite (dtyah) is accepted. 

No worse calamity could befall a Bedouin than to lose his 

1 Ametn Rihani, Tdrlkh Najd (Beiru 928), p. 233. 

^Ofclif ~ BEDOUIN LIFE 27 

tribal affiliation* A tribeless man, in a land where stranger and 
enemy are synonymous, like a landless man in feudal England, 
is practically helpless. His status is that of an outlaw, one 
beyond the pale of protection and safety. 

Though primarily a matter of birth, clan kinship may be in- 
dividually acquired by sharing a member's food or sucking a 
few drops of his blood, Herodotus 1 speaks of this ancient rite 
of adoption. If a slave is freed he often finds it to his interest to 
keep some attachment with the family of his former master, 
thus becoming a client (tnawla). A stranger may seek such a 
relationship and is styled a protege (dakhtt). In like manner 
a whole weaker clan might desire the protection of, and 
ultimately become absorbed by, a stronger clan or tribe. The 
Tayyi*, Ghatafan, Taghlib, etc., were confederations of North 
Arabian tribes which figured prominently in history and whose 
descendants still survive in Arabic-speaking lands. 

An analogous custom in religion made it possible for a stranger 
to become attached to the service of a sanctuary 3 and thus be- 
come a client of the god. To the present day the pilgrims to 
Makkah are referred to as "the guests of Allah 1 *, and the students 
connected with the mosque of Makkah or any other great mosque 
are called "[His] neighbours" (sing, mujawir). 

*A$abiyah is the spirit of the clan. It implies boundless and 'A?ubtyah 
unconditional loyalty to fellow clansmen and corresponds in 
general to patriotism of the passionate, chauvinistic type. "Be 
loyal to thy tribe," sang a bard, "its claim upon its members is 
strong enough to make a husband give up his wife." 3 This in- 
eradicable particularism in the clan, which is the individualism of 
the member of the clan magnified, assumes that the clan or tribe, 
as the case may be, is a unit by itself, self-sufficient and absolute, 
and regards every other clan or tribe as its legitimate victim 
and object of plunder and murder* Islam made full use of the 
- tribal system for its military purposes. It divided the army into 
.units based on tribal lines, settled the colonists in the conquered 
glands in tribes and treated new converts from among the sub- 
' jugated peoples as clients. The unsocial features of individualism 
and ^mablyah were never outgrown by the Arab character as it 
v developed and unfolded itself after the rise of Islam, and were 

n 7* ' ' * * 3k. Ill, dhu 8. * Cf. Ezekiel 44 : 7. 

. , * ^""barma, ti-J&ntfi, cd. W. Wright (Leipzig, 1864), p. 229, L 3 




among the determining factors that led to the disintegration and 
ultimate downfall of the various Islamic states. 

The clan is represented by its titular head, the sheikh. Unlike 
his modern namesake of Hollywood fame, the sheikh (shaykh) 
is the senior member of the tribe whose leadership asserts itself 
in sober counsel, in generosity and in courage. Seniority in age 
and personal qualifications determine the choice. In judicial, 
military and other affairs of common concern the sheikh is not 
the absolute authority; he must consult with the tribal council 
composed of the heads of the component families. His tenure of 
office lasts during the good-will of his constituency. 

The Arabian m general and the Bedouin in particular is a 
born democrat. He meets his sheikh on an equal footing. The 
society in which he lives levels everything down. The title malik 
(king) the Arabians never used except in referring to foreign 
rulers and the partially Romanized and Persianized dynasties 
of Ghassan and al-rj Trah. The kings of the banu-Kindah formed 
the only exception to this rule But the Arabian is also aristo- 
cratic as well as democratic. He looks upon himself as the em- 
bodiment of the consummate pattern of creation. To him the 
Arabian nation is the noblest of all nations (afkhar al-umam). 
The civilized man, from the Bedouin's exalted point of view, is 
less happy and far inferior In the purity of his blood, his 
eloquence and poetry, his sword and horse and above all m his 
noble ancestry (nasad) t the Arabian takes infinite pride. He is 
excessively fond of prodigious genealogies and often traces his 
lineage back to Adam. No people, other than the Arabians, have 
ever raised genealogy to the dignity of a science. 

The Bedouin woman, whether Islamic or pre-Islamic, enjoyed 
and still enjoys a measure of freedom denied to her sedentary 
sister. She lived in a polygamous family and under a baal 
system of marriage in which the man was the master, neverthe- 
less she was at liberty to choose a husband and leave him if ill- 

Ability to assimilate other cultures when the opportunity 
presents itself is well marked among the children of the desert. 
Faculties which have remained dormant for ages seem to awake 
suddenly, under the proper stimuli, and develop into dynamic 
powers. In the Fertile Crescent lies the field of opportunity. A 
Hammurabi makes his appearance in Babylon, a Moses in 

* CH. ill , , BEDOUIN LIFE y 29 * 

Sinai, a Zenobia inTnlmyra, a Philip the Arab in Rome or a 
w in Baghdad. Monuments are built, like those 
of Petra, which still arouse the admiration of the world. [The 
phenomenal and almost unparalleled efflorescence of early Islam 
was due in no small measure to the latent powers of the Bedouins, 
who, in the words of the Caliph c Umar, "furnished Islam with 
its raw material". 1 

1 Slm-SaM, Kttch aUTd>*t& chKa&r, ed. Eduard Sachau, vol. iii, pt. t (Ley- 
den, 1044), p. 246, L 3 


We have thus far used the term Arabian for all the inhabitants 
of the peninsula without regard to geographical location. We 
must now differentiate between the South Arabians and the 
North Arabians, the latter including the Najdis of Central 
Arabia. The geographical division of the land by the trackless 
desert into northern and southern sections has its counterpart 
in the peoples who inhabit it. 

The North Arabians are mostly nomads living in "houses of 
hair" in al-I^ijaz and Najd; the South Arabians are in the main 
sedentary, domiciled in al-Yaman, $adramawt and along the 
neighbouring coast. The Northerners speak the language of the 
Koran, the Arabic par excellence; the Southerners used an 
ancient Semitic tongue of their own, Sabaean or IJimyarite, 
with which the Ethiopic of Africa is closely allied. Both are doli- 
chocephalic (long-headed) members of the Mediterranean race. 
But the Southerners have a considerable coastal element that is 
brachycephalic (round-headed), with a broad jaw and aquiline 
nose, flat cheeks and abundant hair, characteristic of the Ar- 
menoid (Hittite, Hebrew) type. It is an intrusive element borne to 
South Arabia perhaps by sea from the north-east. 1 The South 
Arabians were the first to rise to prominence and develop a 
civilization of their own. The North Arabians did not step on 
to the stage of international affairs until the advent of Islam. 

The memory and consciousness of this national distinction 
among the Arabians is reflected in their own traditional genea- 
logies. They divide themselves first into two groups: extinct 
(b£ida/i) t including Thamud, *Ad — both of koranic fame — , 
Tasm and Jadis, and surviving (bdgtyah)* The Thamud were an 
historical people mentioned in the cuneiform annals of Sargon 
II * and known to classical writers as "Tamudaei". 3 The 'Adites 

1 Carleton S Coon, The Races of Europe (New York, 1939), pp 403-4, 408 
* D. D. LuckenbiH, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, vo! u (Chicago, 
19*7)> §§ *7> * 18. * p kay> Natural History >> Bk. VI, ch. 32. 





are supposed to have flourished in ancient rladramawt. Next, 
the genealogists proceed to subdivide the siu-viving Arabians 
into two ethnic stocks: Arabian Arabs (fdribah) and Arabicized 
Arabs (mustdribah). The 'Aribah, according to them, are 
Yamanites descended from Oahtan (the Joktan of the Old 
Testament) and constitute the aboriginal stock; the MustaVibah 
are the rjijazis, Najdis, Nabataeans and Palmyrenes, all 
descended from *Adnan — an offspring of Ishmael — and are 
"naturalized" in the land. In the traditional Qahtan and 
'Adnan is a reminiscence of the differentiation between South 
Arabians and North Arabians. The Madinese who rushed to the 
support of the Prophet at the time of his Hijrah were of Yamanite 
origin, but his own family, the Quraysh, were Nizari of the 
northern stock. The Ghassanids of eastern Syria and the Lakh- 
mids of al-IJIrah in al-'Iraq were Southerners domiciled in the 

This gulf between the two Arabian stocks was never bridged. 
The age-old division continued to be as prominent as ever, even 
after Islam had apparently unified the Arabian nation, 
i ReU- Like a thick wedge the Arabian peninsula thrusts itself 
£^^ ll> between the two earliest seats of culture: Egypt and Babylonia. 
The Panjab in India may have been a third cultural focus, and 
the peninsula lies between it and the West. Although Arabia 
was not brought within the scope of the river-valley culture of 
either the land of the one river or the land of the twin rivers, yet 
it could not entirely have escaped their influence. Its culture, 
however, was at bottom indigenous. It belonged to the maritime 
type. Its south-eastern people were possibly the ones who acted 
as intermediaries between Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Panjab 
— the three focal centres of earliest trade — and gave their name 
to the great intervening sea. 

Africa touches Arabia in the north at the Sinaitic peninsula, 
over which a land route passes, comes close to it in the south at 
Bab ai-Mandab, only fifteen miles across, and is connected with 
mid-western Arabia by a third route which follows Wadi al- 
ii ammamat, opposite the bend of the Nile near Thebes, and 
connects with the Red Sea at al-Qusayr. This last route was the 
chief central connection. During the Twelfth Egyptian Dynasty 
(ca. 2000-1788 B.C.) a canal above Bilbays connected the Nile 
with the Red Sea, Restored by the Ptolemies, this canal, the 



antecedent of the Suez Canal, was reopened by the caliphs and 
Used until the discover} 7 (1497) of the route to India round the 
Cape of Good Hope. 

The Egyptian interest in Sinai arose because of its copper and sfaaiuc 
turquoise mines located in Wadi Magharah in the southern part ™w CT 
of the peninsula near the modern town of al-Tur, Even in pre- 
dynastic days the nomads of Sinai were exporting their valued 
products to Egypt Pharaohs of the First Dynasty operated the 
mines of die peninsula, but the period of great exploitation 
started with Snefru (ca. 3720 B.C.) of the Third Dynasty. The 

From G. Eihot Smith, 'TJ* Antxeni Egyptians and tht Ort&r t>j Cwi hsehon" 
{ftet$tr& Bret) 

(Co. 2000 Bx. and i$oo B.C. respectively) 

great road connecting Egypt with Syria-Palestine and thence 
reaching to the rest of the Fertile Crescent and Asia Minor— 
that first international highway used by man — sent a branch 
south-east to these copper and turquoise mines of Srnai. In a 
royal tomb of the First Dynasty at Abydos, Petrie found m 1900 
on a piece of ivory a portrait of a typical Armenoid Semite 
labelled "Astatic**, with & long pointed beard and shaven upper 
Hp, presumably a South Arabian. An earlier relief belonging to 

- the same dynasty shows an emaciated Bedouin chief in a loin- 
* % , cloth crouching in submission before his Egyptian captor, who 
is about to brain the Bedouin with his mace. These are the 
earliest representations of Arabians extant. The word for 
» Bedouin (Eg. normd, Asiatic) figures prominently in the 

^ early Egyptian annals and in some cases refers to nomads around 

J /%ypt and outside of Arabia proper. 




Frank- South Arabia was brought nearer to Egypt when the latter 
mcense established commercial relationships with Punt and Nubia. 

Herodotus 1 speaks of Sesostns, probably Senusert I (1980-1935 1 
B.C.) of Dynasty XII, as conquering the nations on the Arabian 
Gulf, presumably the African side of the Red Sea. The Eight- 
eenth Dynasty maintained a fleet in the Red Sea, but as early 
as the Fifth Dynasty we find Sahure (2553-2541 B.C.) conduct- 
ing the first maritime expedi- 
tion by way of that sea to 
an incense- producing land, 
evidently Somahland on the 
African shore. 

The chief attraction for the 
Egyptians in South Arabia lay 
in the frankincense, which they 
prized highly for temple use 
and mummification and in 
which that part of Arabia was 
particularly rich. When Nubia 
was subjugated and Punt 
(modern Somahland) brought 
within the commercial sphere 
of the Egyptian empire many 
expeditions were conducted to 
those places to procure "myrrh, 
fragrant gums, resin and aro- 
matic woods". Such an ex- 
pedition to Punt was under- 
taken by Hatshepsut (ca, 1500 
B.C.), the first famous woman in history. The emissaries of her 
successor, Ihutmose III, the Napoleon of ancient Egypt, 
brought (1479 B.c) from the same land the usual cargo of 
"ivory, ebony, panther-skins and slaves". As these were also the 
products of al-Yaman in south-western Arabia it is not unlikely 
that the Egyptians used the term "Punt M for the land on both 
sides of Bab al-Mandab Gold may also have come from Arabia. 
The incense trade with South Arabia went through Wadi al- 
Hammamat, making that central route the most important link 
with South Arabia. 

* Bk, II, ch. 102. 

Frcnt A T Olm fen J Jfishry of Palestine 
i* 1 Syria (Char ts S nhner t Setts) 


oi Tin rmsr VYV\ST\ 





IJadramawt, 1 which in ancient times included the coastlands 
Mahrah and al-Shihr,* was the celebrated land of frankincense. 
£afar, formerly a town and now a district on the coast, was its 
chief centre. The modern name is Dhufar and it is under the 
nominal rule of the sultan of *Uman» This £afar, the commercial 
centre of the frankincense country and situated as it is on the 
bouthern coast, should not be confused with the inland Zafar in 
al-Yaman, which was the Himyarite capital. 3 The frankincense 
(lubdn, whence "olibanum") tree still flourishes in yadramawt 
and other parts of South Arabia. As of old, Zafar is still the 
chief centre of its trade. 

The ancient Egyptians were not the only people who had a 
commercial interest in Arabia. Their foremost rivals for the 
trade in spices and minerals were the people of Babylonia. 
2. RcU- Eastern Arabia bordered on Mesopotamia. The early inhabit- 
Jh<Tsul llh ants °f ^ at re g* on > the Sumerians and Akkadians, had already 
nienans by the fourth millennium before our era become familiar with 
Ionian***" t ^ ieir neighbours of the Westland (Amurru) and were able to 
communicate with them both by land and water. 

The source of supply of the Sumerian copper, the earliest metal 
discovered and used in industry, was probably in 'Uman. 

On a diorite statue of Naram-Sin (ca. 2 171 B C), a grandson 
and successor of Sargon (the first great name in Semitic history), 
we read that he conquered Magan and defeated its lord,Manium. 4 
Gudea {pa. 2000B.C.), the Sumerian patesi of Lagash, tells us of his 
expedition to procure stone and wood for his temple from Magan 
and Melukhkha. These two Sumerian place-names, Magan and 
Melukhkha, evidently were first applied to certain regions in cast 
and central Arabia but were later, in the Assyrian period, shifted 
to more distant localities in the Sinaitic peninsula and eastern 
Africa. "Magan" is not etymologically identifiable with Arabic 
"Maan," name of an oasis in northern al-yijaz (now in Trans- 
jordan), possibly an ancient Minaean colony on the caravan route. 
In these cuneiform inscriptions we have the first recorded refer- 
ence in history to a place in Arabia and to an Arabian people. 

1 Hasarmaweth of Gen. xo : 26 

* In its later and modern use the name al-Shifcr has been applied to the whole 
frankincense coast, including Mahrah and Zafar, 

* Cf Yaqut, BuldSn, vol. m, pp 576 7 

4 Cf F TUureau-D&ngin, Les tnsenphens de Sumer tt d'Akkad (Pans, 1905), 


? The "Sealand" of the cuneiform inscriptions was, according 
to a recent theory, located in Arabia proper and included the 
western shore of the Persian Gulf as far as the isle of al-Bahrayn 
(ancient Dflmun) and possibly al-Nufud as far west as al- f Aqabah* 
Nabopolassar was king of the Sealand before he became king of 

The first unmistakable reference to the Arabians as such occurs 3 as- 
5n an inscription of the Assyrian Shalmaneser III, who led an££££ 
expedition against the Aramaean king of Damascus and his tion 
allies Ahab and Jundub, an Arabian sheikh. The encounter 
took place in 853 B.C. at Qarqar, north of Iranian* These are 
the words of Shalmaneser: 

iCarkar, his royal city, I destroyed, I devastated, I burned with fire. 
1 1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalry, 20,000 soldiers of Hadad-czer, of Aram 
(? Damascus); „ . , 1,000 camels of Gindibu', the Arabian. 1 

-It seems very appropriate that the name of the first Arabian in 
recorded history should be associated with the camel. 

Anxious to ensure the safety of the trade highways passing 
through the far-flung Assyrian empire and converging on the 
Mediterranean, Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 B.C.), founder of 
the second Assyrian empire, conducted a series of campaigns 
against Syria and its environs. In the third year of his reign he 
exacted tribute from Zabibi, the queen of "Aribi" land. In the 
ninth year he conquered another queen of Aribi, Samsi (Shams 
or Shamslyah) by name. His annals record that in 728 B.C. 
the Mas*ai tribe, the city of Temai (Tayma*) and the Sab'ai 
(Sabaeans) sent him tribute of gold, camels and spices. These 
tnbes evidently lived in the Sinai peninsula and the desert to the 
north-east* Thus was Tiglath-Pileser III the first to fasten the 
yoke on Arabian necks 

Sargon II (722-705 B.C.), the conqueror of Carchemish and 
Samaria, reports that in the seventh year of his reign he sub- 
jugated among others the tribes of Tamud (Thamud of the 
Koran) and Ibadid, "who inhabit the desert, who know neither 
high nor low official", struck them down and deported the 
remnant to Samaria, 3 At the same time he received from Samsi, 

4 jUtkcnViU, vol. i, § 6n. 

* Nielsen, ll&ndbutk dtr eltarabiscken AU*rtumtku^€ $ vol. i, Vu alter* 
htche hultur (Copenhagen, 19*7), p. 65* 

* luckenbitt,?0l. 




queen of Arabia, It'amara (Yatha*-amar),the Sabaean chief, and 
from other kings of Egypt and the desert "gold, products of the 
mountain, precious stones, ivory, seed of the maple (?), all kinds 
of herbs, horses, and camels, as their tribute", 1 This It'amara of 
Saba' was evidently one of the Yatha'-amars who bear the royal 
title mukarrtb in the South Arabic inscriptions. Likewise his 
successor Kariba-il of Saba*, from whom Sennacherib claims to 
have received tribute, must have been the south-western Arabian 
identified with Kariba-il of the inscriptions. 2 If so, the "tribute" 
claimed by the Assyrians could not have been but freewill 
presents offered by these South Arabian rulers to the Assyrian 
kings as equals and probably as allies in the common struggle 
against the wild nomads of North Arabia* 

About 6S8 B.C. Sennacherib reduced "Adumu, the fortress of 
Arabia" and carried away to Nineveh the local gods and the 
queen herself, who was also the priestess. Adumu is the oasis 
in North Arabia that figured later in the Islamic conquests under 
the name Dumat al-Jandal. The queen, Telkhunu (Te r eJkhunu) 
by name, had allied herself with the rebellious Babylonians 
against the Assyrian suzerainty, and was assisted by IJazael, 
the chief of the Qedar (Assyrian Kidri) tribe, whose headquarters 
were in Palmyrena. 

Esarh addon about 676 suppressed a rebellion headed by 
Uaite*, the son and successor of yazael, who, "to save his life, 
forsook his camp, and, fleeing alone, escaped to distant (parts)"- 3 
Evidently the Bedouins proved a thorn in the side of the Assyrian 
empire and were incited to revolt by both Egypt and Babylonia, 
On his famous march (670) to the conquest of Egypt, the terrible 
Assyrian was so unnerved by his fearful privations in the North 
Arabian desert that he saw "two-headed serpents" and other 
frightful reptiles that "flapped their wings". 4 Isaiah (30 : 6), in his 
"burden" of the beasts of the south, mentions "the viper and 
fiery flying serpent". Herodotus 5 assures us that "vipers are 
found in all parts of the world; but the winged serpents are 
nowhere seen except in Arabia, where they are all congregated 

In his ninth campaign, directed against the Arabian tribes, 

1 Luckeubill, vol. ii r § 18. 
a Luckenbill, vol. ii, § 946. 
* Bk. Ill, ch. 109. 

* Nielsen, Rar.dhuch % rol. t, pp, 75 seq. 

* Cf. ibid. vol. ii, § 558. 


Ashurbanipal(668^626 B.C.)captured Uaite' and his armies after 
a severe struggle* 

Many references are made in the Assyrian annals to Arabian 
chicfs^'kissing the feet" of the kings of Nineveh and offering 
them among other presents gold, precious stones eyebrow dyes 
(kohl, antimony), frankincense, camels and donkeys* In fact 
we read of no less than nine different campaigns undertaken 
by Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal to 
chastise the unconquerable Bedouins who were for ever harassing 
the Assyrian provinces in Syria, interfering with the caravan 
routes and receiving aid and comfort from Egypt and Baby- 
lonia, both hostile to Assyria. The "Urbi" mentioned in these 
campaigns must have been mainly Bedouins, and their land, 
"Aribi", must have been the Syro-Mesopotamian desert, the 
Sinaitic peninsula and North Arabia. In Sinai the Midianites of 
the Old Testament and not the Nabataeans were those brought 
under Assyrian control. The Sabaeans proper in south-western 
Arabia were never subjugated by Nineveh. The Assyrians, 
(hough rightly called the Romans of the ancient world, could 
not have brought under even nominal rule more than the oases 
and a few tribes in North Arabia. 

Among the settlements of the north at this period Tayma* 4. Neo- 
{Tema and Te-ma-a of the Assyro-Babylonzan records) won JJj^J" 
special distinction as the provincial residence of Nabomdus Persian re 
($56-539 B*C), the last king of the Chaldaeans. The Chaldaeans 
Jiad fallen heir to the Assyrian empire, which included, since the 
days of Tjglath-Pileser III (745-727 B.C.), Syria and a portion 
of North Arabia. In the third year of his reign Nabonidus, in the 
words of a cuneiform inscription, "slew the prince of Tenia" and 
'established himself in that oasis. 1 

>'<The most significant reference in cuneiform literature to this 
Arabian oasis occurs in a chronicle relating to the fall of Babylon 
(S39 B.C.) into the hands of the Persians. The chronicle states 
'that Nabonidus was in "al Terna" in the seventh, ninth, tenth 
_and eleventh years of his reign, while his son (i.e. Belshazzar) 
and the soldiers were in Babylonia. 

j I n 5^5 Cambyses, the son and successor of the founder of the 
-Persian empire, passed through northern Arabia and made an 
alliance with its people while on his way to the conquest of 
r s Dougherty, Ncbonidus end Behhazzor (New Haven, 1929), pp. 1067. 




Egypt. Speaking of Darius, Herodotus 1 remarks: "The Arabians 
were never reduced to the subjection of Persia". 

The Tayma* stone, bought by Huber (1883) and now deposited 
in the Louvre, bears one of the most valuable Semitic inscrip- 
tions ever found. Its date goes back to the fifth century B.C. 
Written in Aramaic, it records how a new deity, Salm of Hajam, 
was introduced into Tayma* by a certain priest who further pro- 
vided an endowment for the new temple and established a heredi- 
tary priesthood. 4 The new deity is represented in the Assyrian 
fashion and below him stands his priest who erected the stela, 
s. Con- The Jews were geographically next-door neighbours of the 
the* Arabians and racially their nearest of kin. Echoes of the desert 
Hcbrws origin of the Hebrews abound in the Old Testament. 3 Hebrew and 
Arabic, as we have learned before, are cognate Semitic tongues. 
Some of the Hebrew Old Testament names are Arabic, e.g. those 
of almost all of Esau's sons (Gen. 36: 10-14; 1 Ch. 1 : 35-7)* A 
South Arabian would havebut little difficulty in understanding the 
first verse of Hebrew Genesis. 4 The rudiments of the Hebrew re- 
ligion, modern research shows, point to a beginning in the desert. 

On their way to Palestine from Egypt about 1225 B.C. the 
Hebrew (Rachel) tribes sojourned about forty years in Sinai and 
the Nufud. In Midian, the southern part of Sinai and the land 
east of it, the divine covenant was made. Moses married an 
Arabian woman, the daughter of a Midianite priest, 6 a wor- 
shipper of Jehovah who instructed Moses in the new cult. Yahu 
(Yahweh, Jehovah) was apparently a Midianite or North 
Arabian tribal deity. He was a desert god, simple and austere. 
His abode was a tent and his ritual was by no means elaborate. 
His worship consisted in desert feasts and sacrifices and burnt 
offerings from among the herds. 8 The Hebrews entered Palestine 
as nomads; the heritage of their tribal life from desert ancestors 
continued to be well marked long after they had settled among, 
and become civilized by, the native Canaanites. 
The Hebrew kingdom in its heyday included the Sinaitic 

* Bk. Ill, ch. 88. 

a G. A, Cooke, A TtxUBook of North- Semitic Inscriptions (Oxford, 1903), 
pp. 195-6. 3 Hos 9 : 10, Jer. 2 : 2; Dcut. 32: 10, etc. 

* B. Montz in Zeitschrtft fur die Alttestamenthche Wtssensckaft, n. ser., 
vol. lii (1926), pp 81 seq.\ D. S, MaTgohouth, The Relations between Arabs ord 
Israelites (London, 1924), pp. 8, 15. Consult James A. Montgomery, Arabia and 
the Bible (Philadelphia, 1934), pp 149 seq. 

* r*. 3 : 1, 18 : 10-12, ~ * Ex, 3 * 18, 5 : 1; Num. 10 : 35-6. 

y Nearly international relations 41 

,peninsula> Solomon had his fleet in the Gulf of al~ f Aqabah. Ophir, 
whence the navy of Hiram and Solomon brought gold, algum 
and precious stones (i K. 9 * 2 7~%* *<> • "1 2 Ch. 9 : 10), was 
probably ?afar in 'Urnan. By the time of Job (22 : 24) Ophir 
had become a synonym for a gold-producing land. Over a 
century after Solomon, Jehoshaphat (873-849 B.C.) still held 
sway over Elath (Ezion-geber, modern al- f Aqabah) and the 
trade routes leading thither and received tribute from the 
Arabians who "brought him flocks" (2 Ch. 17 : 11). In report- 
ing his third campaign, directed (701) against Syria-Palestine, 
Sennacherib proclaims: "As for Hezekiah, the terrifying splen- 
dor of my majesty overcame him and the Urbi (Arabs) and his 
mercenary (?) troops which he had brought in to strengthen 
Jerusalem, his royal city, deserted him". 1 Hezekiah (1 Ch. 
4 : 41), and before him Uzziah (2 Ch* 26 : 7), fought against the 
Minaeans in and around the oasis of Ma r In (modern Maan). 
Uzziah (792-740 B.C.) restored Elath to Judah and rebuilt the 
town (2 K. 14 : 22). The Chronicler (2 Ch. 21 : 16, 17) reports 
a South Arabian raid against Judah which resulted in the loss 
of King Jehoram's (848-844 B.C.) sons, wives and treasures, 
although it is difficult to see how distant Sabaeans, "the 
Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians", could have carried 
out such a raid. By the time of Nehemiah, 2 in the middle of the 
fifth century B.C., the Jews were beginning to look upon their 
south-eastern neighbours as enemies. 

^ Etymologically *Arab is a Semitic word meaning "desert" or Biblical 
the inhabitant thereof with no reference to nationality. In this ^^Sid 
sense Hebrew 'Ereb is used in Is. 21 : 13, 13 : 20 and Jer. 3 : 2. Testament 
In the Koran drab is used for Bedouins. Second Mac. 12 : io^** 1 "** 
makes Arabs and nomads synonymous. The first certain instance 
of the biblical use of the word as a proper name occurs in Jer. 
25:24; "kings of Arabia* 1 . Jeremiah's prophetic career fell 
between 626 and $86 B.C. The "kings" referred to were in all 

*■ probability sheikhs of northern Arabia and the Syrian Desert. 

r By the third century B.C. the term was beginning to be used for 

- any inhabitant of the peninsula, for 2 Ch. 21:16 makes mention 
^ of M the Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians", leaving no 
" doubt that the people whom the writer had in mind were the 

- Arabians of the south-west, i.e. Sabaeans. Of the four best- 




known kingdoms of ancient Arabia, viz. Saba*, Ma'ln, rjadra- 
mawt and Qataban, the first three — and these were the important 
ones — are mentioned in the Old Testament. In the commercial 
chapter of Ezekiel (f after 572 B.C.) Arabia is coupled with 
Kedar, and the articles of merchandise listed are exactly what 
we would expect in the way of products from Arabia, From 
verse 21 in this chapter (27), we learn that the Arabians of the 
sixth century B.C. were engaged, as they are still engaged today, 
in breeding cattle which they sold to the neighbouring settlers. 
From Jer. 3 : 2 it is also evident that they were then notorious 
for highway robbery. Jer. 25 : 23 (American Revised) indicates 
that they had their heads shaved except for a tuft at the top, 
a practice similar to that of the Bedouins today. 

Dedan (Ar. Daydan), referred to and mentioned repeatedly 
in the Old Testament (Is. 21 ; 13; Jer. 25 : 23; Ezek. 25 : 13), is 
modern al-*Ula, an oasis in northern al-rlijaz. For some time it 
was the headquarters of the Sabaeans in the northern part of 
the peninsula. At the height of their commercial power the 
Sabaeans evidently exercised control over the transport routes 
leading through al-Hijaz northward to the Mediterranean ports 
and had colonies planted along these routes. 

The Kedar (Heb. Qedar) mentioned by Ezekiel, 1 the "Kidri" 
of the Assyrian annals 2 and the "Cedrei na of classical literature, 
held sway over North Arabia. Palmyrena with the region south- 
east of Damascus was their habitat* 

The Shunammite damsel whose beauty is immortalized in the 
Song ascribed to Solomon (6: 13, 1 : 5; cf. 1 K. 1 : 3) was 
probably an Arabian of the Kedar tribe. If historical, the Queen 
of Sheba (Arabic Bilqis), who brought to the wise king of 
Israel gifts of unique value characteristic of South Arabia 
(1 K. 10: 10; 2 Ch. 9:9), must have had her headquarters 
neither in al-Yaman nor in Ethiopia, but in one of those Sabaean 
posts or garrisons in the north on the caravan route. Not until 
two centuries after the age of Solomon {ca* 1000 B.C.) do the 
Yamanite kings begin to figure in inscriptions. 

In Job 6 : 19 the Sheba (Ar. Saba*) are associated with Tema 
(ravina'). Job, the author of the finest piece of poetry that the 
ancient Semitic world produced, was an Arab, not a Jew, as me 

* See also Is. 21 : 16; Gen* 25 • 13 » LuckenbiU, \ol. 11, §§ 820. $69. 

» Pliny, Bk. V, ch 12. 


form of his name (lyyob t At. Ayyub) and the scene of his book, 
North Arabia, indicate. 1 The appendix to the Book of Proverbs 
contains the wise sayings a of Agur son of Jakeh (Prov. 30 ; 1) 
and of Lemuel (Prov, 31 : i), the two kings of Massa, a tribe of 
Ishmael (Gen. 25 : 14). The names of these two persons occur 
in some form in certain Minaean and other ancient South 
Arabic inscriptions. In Baruch 3 : 23 there is a reference to "the 
Agarenes [sons of Agar = H agar, i.e. Ishmaelites or North 
Arabians] that seek wisdom upon earth". 

"QedenV* and "Bene Q^dem" of the Old Testament, rendered 
in the English versions (Gen* 29: 1; Num. 23 : 7; Is. 1 1 : 14; 
Jud. 6 : 33; Ezek. 25 : 4; Job I : 3) "east", "children of the east' 1 , 
"people of the east", etc., correspond to Arabic skarq and 
shafgTyunfast and easterners). In particular, the terms mean the 
land and the Bedouins east of Palestine; in general, Arabia and 
the Arabians. "Saracen" comes from this same Arabic stem and 
is one of a half-dozen words of Arabic origin which occur in 
Old English, this word being used as early as the ninth century. 
It had had a history of its own before the rise of Islam and can 
be applied to others besides Arabians and Arabs. 3 Job, whose 
book is considered a masterpiece of wisdom as well as poetry, 
Was a chief of the Bene Qedem (Job 1 : 3). In wisdom Solomon 
alone excelled this tribe (x K. 4 : 30). The "wise men from the 
east" (Matt. 2 : t), therefore, who followed the star to Jerusalem 
Were possibly Bedouins from the North Arabian desert rather 
than Magi from Persia. 

In the post-exilic literature the word Arab usually signifies 
Nabataean (2 Mac. 5 : 8; 1 Mac. 5 * 39)* F irst Maccabees 9 : 35 
mmthns the Nabataeans as such. At the time of Paul the Naba- 
taean kingdom extended as far north as Damascus. The Arabia 
to which Paul retired (Gal, 1:17) was undoubtedly some desert 
tract in the Nabataean district. The Arabians in Acts 2:11 
ware also in all probability Nabataeans. 

1 technicalities of biblical Hebrew poetry, including parallelism, as illus- 

trated in Job resemble Arabic poetical technique: in both cases the verse is a couplet 
^? st !? s °f two parts which complement each other either appositionally or ama- 

t ^ ft Mlddle AgesHetnw grammar modelled after Arabic grammar. 
Cf, with those of Luqman, Koran 3* : li. 

In this book, therefore, such terms as "history of the Saracens", "Saracenic art", 
« tt5? m » ? rcHtcctljrei, > et<^ ha* e been avoided. An attempt has been made to use 
Arabian for an inhabitant of th* peninsula and "Arab" for any Arabic-speiUng 
person, particularly if a Moslem, To Moslems "Muhammadan" is objectionable. 


6. in Arabia and the Arabians were familiar to the Greeks and 

m^Se Romans. The country lay across their path to India and China 
and produced commodities highly prized in the markets of the 
west Its inhabitants were the middlemen of the southern seas, as 
their kinsmen, the Phoenicians, had been earlier of the Mediter- 

The classical writers divided the land into Arabia Felix, 
Arabia Petraea and Arabia Deserta, corresponding to the tripar- 
tite political division of the land in the first Christian century, the 
first being independent, the second subject to Rome and the third 
nominally controlled in part by Parthia. Arabia Deserta included 
the Syro-Mesopotamian desert (the Badiyah). Arabia Petraea 
(the rocky) centred on Sinai and the Nabataean kingdom, 
having Petra for its capital. Arabia Felix comprised the rest of 
the Arabian peninsula, the interior of which was then but little 
known. Its restriction to the Yaman, the region best known to 
Europe, was a medieval error. The name itself, meaning "happy", 
may have been an attempt to translate Ar. yaman (to the right 
hand), confused with yumn, happiness* The district was called 
Yaman because it lay to the right side, i.e. south of al-rjijaz, 
in opposition to al-Sha*m, i.e. Syria, which lay to the left or 
north. 1 Marcian (ca. A.D. 400) of Heraclea* uses the term 
"Saraceni". Before Marcian, Ptolemy, 8 who flourished in the first 
half of the second century of our era, refers to the Saracens. 
Ammianus Marcellinus,* a native of Antioch who wrote in the 
latter half of the fourth Christian century, identifies the Saracens 
with the Scenite Arabs. 

The first mention of the Arabians in Greek literature was made 
by Aeschylus 6 ($25-456 B.C.), the reference being to a dis- 
tinguished Arabian officer in the army of Xerxes. Herodotus • 
{ca. 484-425 B.C.) follows with a reference to the Arabians in 
Xerxes' army, who were evidently from eastern Egypt. 

1 The "Sabaei" (Sabaeans), "Mmaci" (Minacans), "Homcritae" (tfimyarites), 
"Scenitac" (tent-dwellers = Bedouins), "Nabataei" (Nabataeans), "Catabanei" 
(Qatabiinites), "Chatramo&tae" (people of tfadramawt), "Omarutae'* fUmatutes), 
"Sachahtae" (inhabitants of the Sam!, i e. the coast-line, m this case the southern 
coast line, medieval al-Shihr) — all these figure in Greek and Roman geographies 
and histories. 

* Pertptus of the Outer Sea, tr. Wilfred H. Schoff (Philadelphia, 1927), § 17a. 

* Geographic, ed Carolus F. A. Nobbe, vol 11 (Leipzig, 1887), Bk. V, ch. 17, % 3. 

* Rerum gestarum, BlcXXlI, ch. 15, § 2, Bk XX1H, ch. 6 t § 13. 

* Persians, I. 320. • l.k VII, § 69 


f To the classical authors from the Greek Eratosthenes (f ca. 
196 B.C.) — the source of Strabo— to the Roman Pliny (f a.D. 79) 
'Arabia is a land of fabulous wealth and luxury; it is the country 
of frankincense and other spices; its people love and enjoy 
liberty- Indeed, what particularly struck Western Writers was 
the characteristic last mentioned. The independent character of 


the Arabian people has formed a theme of praise and admira- 
*i? n ^ European authors from the remotest times to the days of 
* Gibbon. 1 

" T*l at & e Arabians themselves were conscious of those superior 
^ advantages which their natural environment afforded may be 
inferred from the debate with the Persian Chosroes in the 
^ presence of the Byzantine, Indian and Chinese deputies, in the 

V Gibbon, The Dtcline and Fall cj tkr Roman Empire, *L T. B. Bury 




course of which the Arab delegation brought out as eloquently 
and forcefully as possible the points in which their nation 
excelled. 1 Diodorus Siculus* (fl. 2nd half of 1st cent. B.C,) 
affirms that the Arabians "highly prize and value their liberty". 
In his Geography? Strabo (f A.D. 24), on the authority of an 
earlier Greek, states that the Arabians were the only people 
who did not send their ambassadors to Alexander, who had 
planned "to make Arabia the seat of empire".* 
Roman Masters of the world, as they were, the Romans failed to 
expedition ^ y 0 fc e U p 0 n Arabian necks. Their famous expedition 

of 10,000 men conducted from Egypt under the leadership of 
its prefect Aelius Gallus in 24 B.C., during the reign of Augustus 
Csesar, and supported by their Nabataean allies, proved a signal 
failure. Its object was admittedly to capture those transport 
routes monopolized by the South Arabians and tap the resources 
of al-Yaman for the benefit of Rome. After months of southward 
penetration the decimated army turned back to "Negrana" 
(Najran), which it had captured previously, made the coast of 
die Red Sea and ferried across to the Egyptian shore. The 
return trip took sixty days. The farthest point in Arabia reached 
was "Mariaba", which was probably not MaVib the Sabaean 
metropolis but Manama to the south-east. The celebrated Greek 
geographer Strabo, historian of the expedition and himself the 
personal friend of Gallus, blames the many misfortunes on the 
perfidy of its guide, "Syllaeus the minister of the Nabataeans".* 
Thus ended ignominiously the first, and indeed the last, military 
campaign of major importance that any European power ever 
ventured to conduct in inland Arabia. 
The wo- To Herodotus* "the whole of Arabia exhales a most delicious 
fragrance", it being "the only country which produces frank- 
incense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon and ladanum. . . . The trees 
which bear the frankincense are guarded by winged serpents, 
small in size and of varied colours, whereof vast numbers hang 
about every tree." 7 But the geographer Strabo is slightly more 
judicious than the over-credulous "father of history". To him also 
South Arabia is "the aromatic country", 8 but its "snakes, a 

1 Ibn-'Abd-Rabbihi, al'Iqd al-Farxd (Cairo, 1302), vol, i, p. 125, 

* Btbhotheca hrstorica, Bk. II, ch. 1, § 5 

* Bk XVI, ch. t, § II. * Bk XVI, ch 4, § 27. 
« Bk. XVI, ch 4, § 23. < Bk. Ill, ch. 113. 

* Bk. Ill, ch. 107. • Bk XVI, ch. 4, § 25. 


'/ span in length, spring up as high as a man's waist". 1 Diodorus 
Siculus ' reiterates the same view of Arabia as a spice-producing 

- — ft- y s 

'\ tod the very soil of which is redolent. Pliny, who in his Natural 
Jtetory {Bk. VI) summarizes the Roman knowledge of the 
. .Eastern countries as of A, D. 70, also emphasizes this characteristic 

iV ,1 V v X V?» ^4,5 19. * Bk. II, ch. 49, §§ 3-3. 



of the land 1 and adds, in another connection, that the Sabaei are 
"the best known of all the tribes of Arabia on account of their 
frankincense".* Clearly rjadramawt was in those days the frank- 
incense land par excellence. The Greeks and Romans evidently 
presumed that all the commodities in which the Arabians dealt 
were native products of their own land, so jealously did the 
merchants guard the secrets of their other sources in Abyssinia 
and India and so strict was the monopoly. 

Those same classical writers were greatly impressed by the 
wealth of the South Arabians. Strabo 3 mentions cities "adorned 
with beautiful temples and palaces". Pliny, 4 using Aelius Galius 
for authority, concurs. 
Gold While frankincense and spices were the products for which the 

land was most famous, almost equally prized were the mineral 
deposits, particularly gold, found along the western coast of the 
peninsula from Midian to al-Yaman and to some extent in the 
central portion of the land. Diodorus* asserts that Arabia 
possessed mines of gold so pure that no smelting was necessary. 
AJ-Maqdisi 6 and al-Hamdani 7 (tenth century) devote a para- 
graph each to the minerals of Arabia, emphasizing particularly 
its gold. 

Other treasured scraps of information are embedded in the 
Greek and Latin records. Strabo 8 tells us that in South Arabia 
polyandry of the type in which a number of brothers married 
the same wife prevailed, that people lived incestuously and that 
the law of primogeniture, by which the eldest became the chief/ 
was observed. He further states that the greater part of their 
wine was made of dates and that instead of olive oil sesame oil 
was used. 0 

In his geography, written between A.D. 150 and 160, Ptolemy, 
whose projection of the known world was to determine the geo- 
graphical ideas of both Europeans and Asians for many cen- 
turies to come, gives us the result of an attempt to put into 
scientific form the records and personal impressions of merchants 
and travellers of his time. His map of Arabia is the first sketch 
based on such information. 

* Bk. XII, ch. 30. * Bk. VI, ch. 32. * Bk. XVI, ch. 4, § 3- 

* Bk VI, ch 32. • Bk. II, ch. 50, § 1* 

* Afrscrt al-TcqasIm t ed, de Goeje (Lc>den ( 1877), pp. ioi-2. 

* fxfatjasxrot al-Arab, edL D. H MOller (Leyden, 1884), pp 153-4. 

« Bk XVI, ch. 4, § 25. » fbtd. § 26, Phny, Bk. VI, ch. 32. 



The Sabaeans were the first Arabians to step within theTheSouth 
threshold of civilization. They figure in the late cuneiform in- 
scriptions. The oldest reference to them in Greek literature is cham* 
in Theophrastus (f 288 B.C.), Htstoria plantarum} The south- 
western comer of the peninsula was the early home of the 

The fertility of that felicitous rain-favoured land, its proximity 
to the sea and its strategic location on the India route were all 
determining factors in its development. Here were produced 
spices, myrrh and other aromata for seasoning foods or burning 
in the ceremonial of the court and the ritual of the church; fore- 
most among these was incense, that most valuable commodity 
of ancient trade. Thither did rare and highly prized products, 
such as pearls from the Persian Gulf, condiments, fabrics and 
swords from India, silk from China, slaves, monkeys, ivory, 
gold and ostrich feathers from Ethiopia, find their way in transit 
to Western marts. The author of The Periplus of the Erythraean 
Sea* has left us (A.D, 50-60) a bird's-eye view of the market of 
* "Muza", present-day Mukha (Mocha): 

4 The merchandise imported there consists of purple cloths, both fine 
i and coarse; clothing in the Arabian style, with sleeves; plain, ordinary, 
embroidered, or interwoven with gold; saffron, sweet rush, muslins, 
cloaks, blankets (not many), some plain and others made in the local 
fashion; sashes of different colors, fragrant ointments in moderate 
quantity, wine and wheat, not much. 

The Sabaeans were the Phoenicians of the southern sea. They 
knew its routes, reefs and harbours, mastered its treacherous 
monsoons and thus monopolized its trade during the last 
~ millennium and a quarter before our era. The circumnavigation of 
Arabia,stated as a theoretical possibility by Alexander's admiral, 
Nearchus, was in their case an actuality. To the Greco-Roman 
a. ; * Bk * 4» § * Tr. W, H. Schoff (New York, 1912), § 24. 




pilots the frankincense country was "mountainous and for- 
bidding". 1 "Navigation", according to the Peripliis? "is danger- 
ous along this whole coast of Arabia, which is without harbors, 
with bad anchorages, foul, inaccessible because of breakers and 
rocks, and terrible in every way." 

Through the Red Sea the main maritime route led from Bab 
ai-Mandab toWadi al~y ammamat on the coast of Middle Egypt. 
The inherent difficulty of navigating this sea, especially in its 
northern parts, caused the Sabaeans to develop land routes 
between al-Yaman and Syria along the western coast of the 
peninsula, leading through Makkah and Petra and forking 
at the northern end to Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia. The 
Syrian branch strikes the Mediterranean outlet at Ghazzah 
(Gaza). From Hadramawt, particularly rich in frankincense, a 
caravan road led to MaVib, the Sabaean capital, where it joined 
the main commercial artery. Along this south-to-north route a 
number of Sabaean colonies were planted. From these may have 
come the Sabaeans who figured in the Assyrian and Hebrew 
records. An historical snapshot has been preserved for us 
in Gen. 37 : 25 of a "caravan of Ishmaelites" coming down 
"from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and 

South The conquests which the South Arabians achieved were in 
sorptions" commerce and trade* The kingdoms they built were not military 
states. The outline of their history can be delineated from such 
references as those cited above in the ancient Semitic and Greco- 
Roman writings, from the semi-legendary traditions preserved 
in early Moslem literature — particularly the works of Wahb 
ibn-Munabbih (fin San*a\ ca* A.D. 728), al-Hamdani 3 (f A.D, 
945) and al-Himyari (f A.D. 1 177) — but above all from the local 
sources made accessible mainly through the discoveries of 
Halevy and Glaser. All this native South Arabian literature, how- 
ever, is epigraphic — on metal and stone. Whatever perishable 
material was used for recording business transactions, histori- 
cal narratives, or strictly literary productions has entirely dis- 
appeared. The earliest inscriptions found are mostly boustro- 

1 Erythraean Sea t § 29. 

* Ibid, § 20; D. H. M tiller, Die Burgen und Schlosser Sudaraliens naeh dem 
Ikltl des Hamddnt, 2 pts. (Vienna, 1879-St). 

* Bk. VIII, ed. Nabih A. Fans (Princeton, 1940); The Antiquities of South 
Arabia (Princeton, 1938); Bk. X, ed. Mufrbb-al-Din al-KhaJib (Cairo, 1368). 


phedon, dating from the eighth or ninth century B.C. The in- 
scriptions may be classified as follows: (1) votive, engraved on 
tablets of bronze placed in the temples and dedicated toAlmaqah 
(Ibnuqah), *Athtar and Shams; (2) architectural, occurring on 
the walls of the temples and other public edifices to commemo- 
rate the name of the builder of or the contributor to the construc- 
tion; (3) historical, reporting a battle or announcing a victory; 
(4) police ordinances, inscribed on pillars in the entry; (5) funer- 
ary, attached to sepulchres. Of special significance are a few legal 
documents which reveal a long constitutional development. 

Carsten Niebuhr was the first to announce (1 772) the existence 
of South Arabic inscriptions. Joseph Halevy, who since Aelius 

Entwine* on^dtidiia lie foil crura g lutcrtjmon 
Snm "Jiwrml pf th* ficyat G&grapkttal S0*t*ty u (1837) 


Gallus (24 B.C.) was the first European to visit Najran in al- 
Yaman (1869-70), brought back copies of 685 inscriptions 
T from thirty-seven different localities. Between 1882 and 1894 
Eduard Glaser undertook four scientific expeditions to al~ Yaman 
which yielded some 2000 inscriptions, of which some are still 
unpublished* In all we possess today about 4000 such. inscriptions, 
extending in date as far back as the seventh century B.C. Th. S. 
Amaud, who discovered the ruins of Ma*rib, copied in 1843 at 
the risk of his life about sixty inscriptions. James R. Wellsted, 
an English naval officer, published in 1837 a part of the inscrip- 
/ tion of Naqab aM^ajar and this furnished Europe with its second 
^ sight of South Arabian writing. The decipherment was accom- 
* \ plished by Emil Rodiger of Halle (1837) and by Gesenius (1841), 




As revealed by these inscriptions, the South Arabic or 
Minaeo-Sabaean language (also called IJimyaritc) has twenty- 
nine letters in its alphabet. The characters represent in all prob- 
ability an early forking from the Sinaitic, which constitutes the 
connecting link between the Phoenician alphabet and its Egyp- 
tian ancestor. These symmetrical rectilinear letters (al-musnad) 
point to a long development. 1 Its alphabet, like other Semitic 
forms, consists of consonants only. In noun formation, verb 
conjugation, personal pronouns and vocabulary, South Arabic has 
certain affinities with Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) and Ethi- 
opic (Abyssinian). But it has the broken plural which character- 
izes North Arabic and Ethiopic. Akkadian, South Arabic and 
Ethiopic represent in certain respects the older form of Semitic 
speech. With the decay of the Yamanite culture South Arabic 
practically disappeared and North Arabic was substituted. The 
literary fairs of the north, such as the Suq *Ukaz, the annual 
heathen pilgrimage to the Ka'bah and the commercial relations 
with Makkah hastened the process of substitution, 
j. The The first major kingdoms discernible through the mists of 
Wngdom South Arabian antiquity were the Sabaean and the Minacan, 
which during a considerable part of their history were con- 
temporaries. Both kingdoms began as theocracies and ended as 
secular kinships. 

The Sabaeans were the most distinguished branch of the 
entire South Arabian family. Saba*, biblical Sheba, their original 
homeland, lay south of Najran in the Yaman district. The 
Sabaean period, according to the school of Arabists who hold 
for the low (or short) chronology extended from about 750 B.C. to 
115 B.C. with a change in the royal title at about 610 B.C.; the 
Minaean from about 700 B.C., to the third pre-Christian century. 8 
Mukarrib 3 was the title of the priest-king who stood at the head 
of the state. Two early Sabaean mukarribs, Yatha'-amar and 
Kariba-il, are cited in the royal Assyrian annals of Sargon II 
and Sennacherib 4 and must have reigned in the late eighth and 

1 For specimens sec Corpus inscriptionum Semtttcarum, pars iv (Paris, 1889 ft). 

* Cf. Nielsen, Handbuch, vol. i, pp. 64 seq ; F. V. Wmnett in Bulletin , American 
Schools of Oriental Research % no. 73 (1939), pp. 3-9; G. Ryckmans in Bulletin, 
School of Oriental and African Studtes,vo]*xiv (1952), pp. 1 sea.; Jacques Ryckmans, 
VInstitution tnonarchque en Arabic miridtonale avant VIslam (Louvain, 1§S 1 )* 
pp 257^. 

8 MKRB, \ocaIizatton uncertain* 

* See above, pp 37-S. 

■* Arabic * 


: Later 

Arabic .. 


r nf 



I ; 


1 ! 







. r 


" ■ J 







Y T 


„-v, ■.-.••~fO • 




r v 


i 1 : 

X . 

* * * 


vb s 

;ry . # 

u>Ui M 
T T n 

r o6 






■^v, ■ ' ! \ • * * 
'A: " 


* •# 






\ 7* 








t A 




< 7 


^* • 
V : 

■ ^x 1 ^y^. • 

■ r ?\ 



;\ rO ^ 

o '; 











ia2l SiiiiSliiiiia^^^B 




early seventh century. In their heyday the kings of Saba* ex- 
tended their hegemony over alt South Arabia reducing their 
neighbour, the Minaean kingdom, to a state of vassalage. Sir- 
wah, a day's journey west of Ma'rib, was the capital of Saba\ 
Its principal building was the temple of Almaqah, the moon-god.* 
Its principal ruins, now called al-Kharibah, house a village of a 
hundred persons. An inscription records that its surrounding wall 
was built by Yada*-il, an early mukarrib. Another inscription 
records the victorious campaigns of Kariba-il Watar(r^.4So B.C.), 
who first assumed the title fl MLK [king of] Saba". 
Ma'nb In the second period of the Sabaean kingdom (ca. 610- 
dttra 115 B.C.) the ruler appears shorn of his priestly character. 
MaVib, some sixty miles east of San'a*, then became the capital. 
This city lay 3900 feet above the sea. It has been visited by only 
a few Europeans, first among whom were Arnaud, HaleVy and 
Glaser. It was the meeting-place of the trade routes connecting 
the frankincense lands with the Mediterranean ports, particu- 
larly Ghazzah. Al~Hamdani in his IklU 2 refers to three citadels 
in Ma'rib, but the construction for which the city was particu- 
larly famous was the great dam, Sadd MaVib. 3 This remarkable 
engineering feat, together with the other public works of the 
Sabacans, reveal to us a peace-loving society highly advanced 
not only in commerce but in technical accomplishment as well. 
The older portions of the dam were constructed in the mid- 
seventh pre-Christian century. The inscriptions make Sum- 
hu'alay Yanuf and his son Yatha f «amar Bayyin the main builders 
and cite restorations in the time of Sharahbi-Il Ya'fur (A.B. 449- 
450) and Abraha the Abyssinian (a.d. 543). But al-Hamdani, 
and after him al-Mas*udi, 4 al-Isfahani 5 and Yaqut, 6 regard 
Luqman ibn- f Ad. a mythical personage, as the builder. 
2. The The Minaean kingdom flourished in the Jawf of al-Yaman 
Wn^om anc * * n * ts ne y^ a y included most of South Arabia. The original 
Arabic form Ma'an (biblical Ma'on, Me'un, Me'm as a place 

1 Ahmed i'akhry, An Arc/toeologieai Journey to Yem «, vol i (Cairo. 1952). pp 
29-56, Wendell Phillips, Qataban and Sheba (New York 1955); Richard L. Bowen 
and Frank P Albright Arckacofasr*c<tf Dttcfmrr** >» Souih 4rahto 'Baltimore 

* Fans, p 45 tor description oj rum?. s>ee al- A?m, pi. 2, pp 50 yey 
MurSf al-t>hahab % ed. and tr de Meynard and de Courteille vol ni (Paris. 18641. 

p. 366 

* Ta ti&Ji Stm MuMkai-Artfw-ahAntnya ,ed GotttvaJdt (Leipzig, 1844), p is6 
c Sultan* vol iv ( p 383 


name) was later vocalized Ma'm, meaning spring-water. The 
name survives in present-day Ma'an (south-east of Petra), an im- 
portant colony on the northern trade route, Minaean inscriptions 
near al- f Ula l and Tabuk attest the existence of several colonies 
in this region serving as warehouses and relay posts* The Minaean 
capital Qarnaw, visited by Halevy in 1870, is modern Ma'In 
(in southern al-Jawf, north-east of San'a ). The religious metro- 
polis, Yathil, also in southern al-Jawf, is present-day Baraqish, 
north-west of MaVib. The Minaeans spoke the same language as 
the later Sabaeans, with only dialectal differences. The so-called 
Minaean inscriptions include the Qatabanian royal inscriptions 
and few rjadramawt texts. Carvings in the temple ruins of al- 
}}zzm, provincial capital of al-Jawf, represent suspended vessels, 
probably wine offerings, gazelles and other sacrificial animals, 
snakes which were divine symbols, dancing girls who were temple 
servants, and ostriches evidently kept in sacred parks. 

Other than the Minaean and Sabaean kingdoms two other 3. 
important states arose in this area Qataban and Hadramawt. ^ 
The land of Qataban lay east of the site of *Adan, that of nw 
I;Ia$ramawt about where it is today. The Qataban monarchy, 2 
whose capital was Tamna* (now Kuhlan), lasted from about 
400-50 B.C.; that of yadramawt, whose capital was Shabwah 
(classical Sabota), lasted from the mid-fifth century before 
Christ to the end of the first Christian century. At times these 
kingdoms were under Sabaean and Minaean hegemony. Arab 
historians knew nothing about all these peoples whose inscrip- 
tions extend from North Arabia to Ethiopia, who organized the 
spice trade and undertook amazing public works. 

From 1 1 5 B.C. onwards the entire area falls under new masters «. 
xvho stemmed from the southwestern highlands, the tribe of £ 
Hirayar. Thence the civilization is referred to as yimyarite, 
though the royal title remains "king of Saba* and dhu-Raydan". 
Raydan later became known as Qataban, This marks the begin- 
ning of the first IJimyarite kingdom, which lasted till about 
A.D. 300. The word "Homeritae" occurs first in The Periplus of 
the Erythraean Sea (about A.D. 60) and then in Pliny. The 

J UhySmte capital ca 500-300 ac. See above p 42 
r * p 24? * ^ or a hst of kngs see MuJtcr, Dit Bvrgeti, pt. 2, pp 6o-6?« 

W sud simxttgues, %ol i (Louvain, »934). PP 3* 

tl, St. J, B Philhy, Tkt Background of Islam (Alexandria, 1947), pp. 




Himyarites were close kinsmen of the Sabaeans and, as the 1 
youngest branch of the stock, became the inheritors of the 
Minaeo-Sabaean culture and trade. Their language was practi- 
cally the same as that of the Sabaeans and Minaeans before them. 
Piiny's references to agriculture are confirmed by the wells, 
dams and cisterns repeatedly mentioned in the inscriptions. The 
collection of frankincense, considered a religious act, was still 
the source of greatest income. 

£afar (classical Sapphar and Saphar, Sephar of Gen. 10 : 30), 
the inland town, about one hundred miles north-east of Mukha 
on the road to San'a\ was the capital of the Himyarite dynasty. 
It displaced MaVib of the Sabaeans and Qamawof the Minaeans. 

Bntuh Mustum 


Obv. male head with monogram; rev. male head with inscription reading 
KfcB'L wtr (Kariba-itu Watar) 
Ca. a.o. 50 

lis ruins can still be seen on the summit of a circular hill near 
the modern town of Yarim. At the time of the composition of 
The Periplus its king was Kariba-il Watar (Charibael of The 

It was during this Himyarite period that the ill-fated Roman 
coluihn under Aelius Galius penetrated as far as Manama. The 
"Hasanis" of Strabo, who was the ruler at that time, is Ili- 
shariha Yahdub of the inscriptions. 
The Another notable occurrence in the early part of this period 

Semitic was ^ e establishment of Arabian colonists from ai-Yaman and 


of tht yadramawt in the "land of Cush", where they laid the basis of 
^ S5ia ' the Abyssinian kingdom and civilization and ultimately developed 
a culture which the native negroes could probably never have 
achieved. The displacement of South Arabian tribes about the 
middle of the fifth century of our era (connected by popular 
tradition with the breaking of the great dam of Ma*rib), which 


carried some to Syria and al-'Iraq, may havcresulted in augment- 
ing the earlier South Arabian settlements in Abyssinia. Along 
the whole coast of East Africa there was an infusion of Arabian 
blood of far earlier origin than the Moslem invasion. The 
beginnings of the kingdom of Aksum (Axum), the original The 
nucleus of later Abyssinia, belong to the first century after SS^aL 

To another Ili-shariha (Ltsharh ibn-Yah$ub of Yaqut 1 ), of 
the first century after Christ, is ascribed the most celebrated 
castle of "the land of castles", as al-Yaman has been called, 
Ghumdan in San*a\ As a measure of protection against Bedouin 
raids the urban Ijtimyarites found it necessary to erect well- 
fortified palaces. Al-Hamdani, and following him Yaqut, have 
left us detailed descriptions of Ghumdan, though by their time 
it was but a gigantic ruin. The citadel, according to these geo- 
graphers, had twenty stories, each ten cubits high — the first 
skyscraper in recorded history. It was built of granite, porphyry 
and marble. The king had his court installed in the uppermost 
story, the roof of which was covered with one slab of stone so trans- 
parent that one could look through it skyward and distinguish 
between a crow and a kite. The four facades were constructed 
of stones of various colours. At each corner-stone stood a brazen 
lion which roared whenever the wind blew. In a poem al-Hamdani 
refers to the clouds as the turban of Ghumdan and marble as 
its belt The structure survived until the rise of Islam and was 
apparently destroj'ed in the course of the struggle which estab- 
lished Moslem supremacy in al-Yaman. 

v The king of this first rjimyarite period appears as a feudal 
lord, residing in a castle, owning land and issuing coins of gold, 
silver and copper, with his image on one side and an owl (the 
Athenian emblem) or a bull's head on the other. Certain older 
coins bear the head of Athena and show South Arabian depend- 
ence on Athenian models as early as the fourth century before 
our era. Besides coins, bronze figures of Hellenistic and Sasanid 
workmanship are occasionally unearthed in al-Yaman. Native 
art shows no high antiquity. Semitic genius nowhere expressed 
itself through such a channel. 
The social organization of the Sabaeo-PJimyarite community 
revealed by the inscriptions represents a curious biend of the 
* BvJf&Sn, toL m t p. Sj t, I S. 



old tribal system, caste stratification and feudal aristocracy and 
monarchy, presenting phenomena many of which may be dupli- 
cated elsewhere but which in their aggregate seem unique. 

In the course of this first Himyarite period the zenith of the 
South Arabian power was passed. So long as the Yamanites 
monopolized the maritime trade of the Red Sea they prospered; 
but now the control was slipping out of their hands. The Peri- 
Smetradc of the Erythraean Sea (A.JO- 50-60), the first record of 
organized trading with the East in vessels built and commanded 
by subjects of a Western power, marks the turning-point of the 
tide of commerce. The great overland route through the Fertile 
Crescent and connecting Europe with India, which was a source 


in roan- 

Brttnh Museum 


Ohv. head of Athena, on her cheek Sabaean letter nun, rev owl. with olive spray 
and crescent. Coin belongs to 3rd or 2nd cent B C, imitation of the old Attic 
type of 4th cent. B.C. 

of endless friction between the Parthian and Roman empires, had 
been threatened before this time by Alexander; but the southern 
maritime route to India remained in the hands of Arabians 
until almost the first century after Christ. Their task consisted 
in collecting the products of their own land together with those 
of East Africa and Indm and carrying them by camel northward 
from Ma'rib through Makkah to Syria and Egypt, thus avoiding 
the hazards of the Red Sea. If, however, transportation by sea 
seemed preferable the route ran either all the way up the Red 
Sea to the canal connecting with one of the eastern arms of the 
Nile or else through the southern part of the Red Sea to Wadi 
al«y ammamat and then across the Egyptian desert to Thebes or 
down the Nile to Memphis The land route through al-Hijaz 
was dotted with yimyarite stations. 1 Strabo* writes that the 
caravan journey from "Minaea to Aelana" (al-'Aqabah) takes 
* See Koran 34 .17-1H. • Bk XVT. ch, * §4. 


»eventy days. As the people of the West developed more and more 
h J g taste for Oriental cloths, perfumes and spices, the South 
Arabians raised the price of their own products, especially 
frankincense and myrrh, and increased the tolls on the foreign 
goods which passed through their hands. In the meantime they 
more jealously guarded their control over the routes. Hence their 
proverbial wealth. Petra and then Palmyra became partners in 
this commercial system, links in the chain, and consequently 
shared in the ensuing prosperity. But now the whole situation 
was beginning to change. 

When Egypt under the Ptolemies became once more a world 
power the first attempt was made to contest the supremacy of 
the sea with the South Arabians. Ptolemy II (285-246 B.C.) 
reopened the Nile-Red Sea canal originally dug by Sesostris 
some seventeen centuries previously. The consequent entry of the 
Ptolemaic merchant marine into the waters separating Egypt 
from Arabia proved the beginning of the end for the I^imyarite 
commercial activity. Rome, which captured Egypt from the 
Ptolemies about the middle of the first century B.C., followed 
the Ptolemies in the policy of maritime competition against the 

■ Arabians and in the desire to free Egypt from commercial 
dependence upon al-Yaman> In the days of Pliny Roman 
citizens were already complaining of the high prices exacted by 
the South Arabian traders for commodities for which Rome had 
to pay in cash because she had so little to offer by way of goods 
they desired. 1 The Abyssinians, evidently not content with the 
share of Spoils allotted them by their neighbours to the east, 
were now courting Roman alliance. 

In the early Roman period a Greek or Roman* perhaps in 
*he Abyssinian maritime service, was initiated into the mysteries 
of the sea routes with their hazards and periodic changes of 
trtonsoons, and triumphantly returned to Alexandria with a 
£argo of the greatly desired and highly priced articles, including 
cinnamon and pepper produced in India, commodities which the 
Westerners had believed to be of Arabian origin. This Hippalus, 
cthe Columbus of early Roman trade, was followed by others who 
'thus contributed to the final break-up of the Arabian monopoly. 
But full advantage of the memorable discovery of the periodicity 
of the monsoons and the direct sea route to India was not taken 

- : - frmy Bk XII ch 4i 



till sometime later. The entry of the Roman shipping into 
the Indian Ocean sounded the knell of South Arabian pros- 
perity. 1 Economic decline brought in its wake, as it always does, 
political ruin. One by one Petra, Palmyra and north-western 
Mesopotamia fell under the paws of the Roman wolf. 
5. The About A.D. 300 the monarchical title in South Arabia becomes 
Htajjiae "king of Saba', dhu-Raydan, Pladramawt and Yamanat". This 
kingdom means that by this time yadramawt had lost its independence. 
To this title a further addition was soon made: "and of their 
Arabians in the mountains and in the Tihamah". Yamanat 
(Yamanah) might have then embraced the entire southern coast- 
lands; Tihamah was the Red Sea coast west of San'a'. 

After an invasion from Abyssinia resulting in a short Abys- 
sinian rule (ca. 340-78) the native y imyarite kings resumed their 
long title and held their position till about A.D. 525, In the Ak- 
sumite inscriptions of the middle of the fourth century the Abys- 
sinian monarch claims to be "king of Aksum, yimyar, Raydan, 
yabashah^Salh and Tihamah". This was not the first or only 
time the Abyssinians invaded Arabia. Once before, in the second 
and third centuries after Christ, they must have succeeded in 
establishing temporary authority over parts of South Arabia. 

Nine of the imyarite kings of this period are known to us 
from inscriptions. Tubba* is the royal title that has survived in 
Islamic literature. Among the imyarite kings best known to 
later Arabic legends was one Shammar Yar'ash, who is repre- 
sented as having conquered as far as Samarqand, which, accord- 
ing to these legends, takes its name from him. Another was 
abu-Karib As'ad Kamil, the Abi-kariba As'ad (ca. A.D. 385-420) 
who is reported to have conquered Persia and who later embraced 
the Jewish faith. The memory of the latter is still kept alive in 
the Arabic ballads of adventure. This later y imyarite period 
was signalized by the introduction of Christianity and Judaism 
into al-Yaman. 

Christi- The religion of South Arabia was in its essence a planetary 
judaJmm astra * system in which the cult of the moon-god prevailed. The 
ai'Yaman moon, known in yadramawt as Sin, to the Minaeans as Wadd 
(love or lover, father), to the Sabaeans as Almaqah (the health- 
giving god?) and to the Qatabanians as 'Amm (paternal uncle), 

5 Cf George F. Houram in Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. xi (1952), 
pp. 291-5. 1 I.e Hatframawt See Nielsen, Handbuch, vol. i, p. 104. 


T stood at the head of the pantheon. He was conceived of as a 
r masculine deity and took precedence over the sun, Shams, who 
was his consort. 'Athtar (Venus, corresponding to the Baby* 
Ionian goddess Ishtar, Phoenician *Ashtart), their son, was the 
third member of the triad. From this celestial pair sprang the 
many other heavenly bodies considered divine. The North 
Arabian al-Lat, who figured in the Koran, may have been 
another name for the sun-goddess* 

" Christianity of the Monophysite type began to trickle in from 
. the north, particularly Syria, at an early date. Syrian mission- 
r aries fleeing persecution may have entered al-Yaman at times 
unknown to us, but the first Christian embassy to South Arabia 
that we read of was that sent by the Emperor Constantius in 356 
under the leadership of Theophilus Indus, an Arian, The real 
.motive behind the mission lay in the international politics of the 
rday and the rivalry between the Roman and Persian empires for 
" spheres of influence in South Arabia. Theophilus succeeded in 
building one church at *Adan (Aden) and two others in the 
country of the I-Iimyarites, Najran, into which Christianity of 
k the Monophysite communion is said to have been introduced 
l by £ a holy man from Syria named Faymiyun (Phemion), em- 
braced the new faith about A.D, 500. Ibn-Hisham 1 and ai-Tabari* 
give us the legend of this ascetic, who was captured by an Arab 
caravan and brought to Najran. Ya*qub of Saruj (fS^i) ad- 
dressed a comforting letter in Syriac to the Christians of Najran. 
The second caliph/Umar, deported (A.D. 635-6) to al-*Iraq those 
of them who had failed to embrace Islam. 5 As late as A.D. 840 
t ysrc hear of a Mar Petrus, bishop of San*a* and al-Yaman. 

Judaism also became widely spread in al-Yaman under the 
second yimyarite kingdom. It must have found its way early 
_ into North Arabia, perhaps consequent to the conquest of Pales- 
tine and the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in A.D. 70. Judging 
by the names preserved most of the Jews in Arabia must have 
been Judaized Aramaeans and Arabians rather than descendants 
Of Abraham. In the early part of the sixth century the Hebrew 
religion had such a hold upon al-Yaman that the last 1} imyarite 
king, dhu-Nuwas (a descendant of the Tubba' As'ad Kamil), 

1 Str&&, ecL WGstenfeJd (G6ttingcn» r#5S), pp 20-25. 
* Tartkfi ai.J? H sul,*& tie Goeje. vol. 1 (Lcyden, t88i-2) r pp, 919-25. 
* t M&aW Fuftifip. 66 » Mitti, Ongtnx, pp, 101-2. See below, p. 169, 


was a Jew. Virtually all the hundred thousand Jews in al-Yaman 
have been, after 1948, transferred to Israel. 

Rivalry between the South Arabian converts of the two newly 
introduced monotheistic religions led to active hostility. Evidently 
dhu-Nuwas, representing the nationalistic spirit, associated the 
native Christians with the hated rule of the Christian Abys- 
sinians. To this Jewish monarch is ascribed the famous massacre 
of the Christians of Najran in October 523 (sur. 85 : 4). 1 Daws 
dhu-Tha'laban (or Thu'luban) survived, according to Arabic 
tradition, and implored the Emperor Justin I for aid, the 
Byzantine emperor at that time being regarded as the protector 
of Christians everywhere. The emperor wrote to the Negus 
(Najashi) of Abyssinia (Kaleb Ela Asbelja in the inscriptions), 
for he represented the Christian power nearest the scene of 
trouble. The Negus is said to have sent 70,000 men across the 
Red Sea to Arabia under a certain Aryat. This campaign there- 
fore falls within the network of the international politics of that 
age: Byzantium was seeking through Abyssinia to bring the 
Arabian tribes under her influence and use them against Persia. 5 
The Abyssinians were victorious in 523 and again in 525. The\ 
leader on the latter occasion was Abrahah (variant of Abraham), 
originally an officer under Aryat, but who by this time had 
fallen out with his commander and taken over the supreme 
command. According to al-Tabari, 3 dhu-Nuwas, setting spurs 
to his steed, "plunged it into the waves of the sea and was never 
seen again* \ Thus came to his end the last Himyarite monarch, 
and with him the period of the independence of al-Yaman was 
terminated. All that remains of the glorious memory of the 
ancient yimyarite dynasty is today perpetuated in the name of 
an obscure tribe, rjimyar, east of *Adan. 
The The Abyssinians came as helpers, but as often happens 

AblnmUn remamec * as conquerors. They turned colonists 4 and remained ^ 
rule from 525 to 575 in control of the land whence their ancestors 
had long before emigrated to the African "shore. Abrahah, the 
acknowledged Aksumite viceroy, built in San*a\ now the capital, 
one of the most magnificent cathedrals of the age, called by 
the Arabian writers al-Qalis (al-Qulays, al-Qullays, from Gr. 

1 See Axfcl Moberg, Tht Book of (he Htmyaritts (Lund, 19214). 

* Procopius, History cf the Wars, ed and tr. H. B Dewing (London, 1904), 
Bk. 20, 

* Vol. i, pp 927-$. * Procopjus, Bk. I, ch. 20, §§ 2, 6. 

*tsx*y siuwr uak. 


ckk?esia t church). The cathedral, of which little is left today but 
the site, was built from the ruins of ancient Ma'rib. 

The Christian Abyssinians were evidently intent upon con- 
verting the land "and creating a rival to pagan Makkah, the 
centre of pilgrimage in the north, for pilgrimage was a source 
of great income to those who dwelt in the city to which the pil- 
grims travelled or beside the roads leading thither. In the 
establishment of a southern religious shrine that would draw 
large crowds, to the detriment of the rjijaz sanctuary, the Abys- 
sinian overlords were evidently successful. Indeed the memory 
of this economic-religious rivalry has been perpetuated in the 
local tradition in which two Arabian pagans of the Fuqaym 
tribe, attached to the cult of the Ka'bah, polluted the San'a* 
cathedral on the eve of a festival, causing Abrahah to undertake 
a disciplinary expedition against Makkah. The incident is said 
to have taken place in the year of the birth of the Prophet 
(570 or 57*)> which year has been dubbed *dm al-ftl t the year of 
the elephant, after the elephant which accompanied Abrahah 
on his northward march and which greatly impressed the 
Arabians of al-ljijaz, where elephants had never been seen. The 
Abyssinian army was destroyed by smallpox, "the small pebbles" 
(szjjil) of the Koran. 1 
The To this period should also be assigned the memorable event 

of Ma'nb * mrnortanze d in Islamic literature as "the bursting of the great 
dam dam" of MaVib occasioned by the great flood. 1 Al-Isfahani* 
who devotes the eighth book of his annals (finished A.D. 961) to 
y imyarite kings, puts the tragic event four hundred years before 
Islam, but Yaqut* comes nearer to the truth when he assigns it 
to the reign of the Abyssinians, The ruins of this dam are visible 
to the present day. A dated South Arabic inscription (date 
corresponding to A.D. 542-3) by Abrahah dealing with one of 
the breaks has been discovered and published by Glaser. 6 

This breach in the time of Abrahah was preceded by one in 
A.D. 450 when the water broke the dam. But the works were 
then restored* The final catastrophe alluded to in the Koran 
(34:15) must have taken place after 542 and before 570, 
Connected with one of the early breaches in the dyke was the 

1 105 : 1-3. See al-Tabari, Tafslr aUQufan (BulSq, 1329), vol. sxx, p. 193; ibn» 
Hisham, StraA, p. 36. 
9 Koran 34 : 15. * Op. <£L p. 126. « Buldar, vol. W, p. 3S3. 

* In Mtttiilungm der vorderasialtschen Gtsdlschcft (Berlin, 1&97), pp. 360*48$. , 



migration of the banu-Ghassan to the IJawran region in Syria, 
where they became the bulwark of Roman rule, and of the banu- 
Lakhm to the rjfrrah region, where a number of South Arabic 
inscriptions have recently been unearthed. The banu-Ghassan 
chose the year of the breaking of the dam as the starting-point 
for an era of their own. 1 Besides the Ghassan and Tanukh of 
Syria and al-*Iraq, the banu-Tayyi\ Kindah and other large 
and powerful tribes of North and Central Arabia claim South 
Arabian origin. There are today families in Syria which trace 
their entry into the country back to this same event. 

Later Arab imagination seized upon this spectacular episode 
of the great flood and bursting of the dam to explain the whole 
age-long process of decline and decay in South Arabian trade, 
agriculture, 2 prosperity and national life; a decline due, as we 
have already learned, to the entry of Roman shipping into the 
Red Sea, the introduction of the divisive influence of new religions 
and the subsequent submission to foreign rule. The legend of 
"the bursting of the dam" — for so it became in later annals — 
is perhaps to be analysed as a concentrated and dramatic re-telling 
of a long history of economic and sociological causes that led 
to the disintegration and final downfall of South Arabian society 
'and as the crystallization of the results of a long period of decay 
into one single event. And, with what appears to be a subtle 
* appreciation of the intangible quality of the true causes lead- 
ing up to this tragedy, the chroniclers 3 report that a rat turned 
bver a stone which fifty men could not have budged, and thus 
brought about the collapse of the entire dam. Muzayqiya* ('Amr 
^ ibn-*Amir Ma'-al-Sama') was according to tradition the ruler 
" ^uring whose reign this rat did its momentous and epoch-making 

- m The national movement to free al-Yaman from Abyssinian Then 
rule found its hero, so the tradition goes, in a scion of the old jjjjjjjj 
^ Ijitnyar royal line, Sayf ibn-dhi-Yazan, The successful struggle 
tfifrefi) of Sayf in his romance found a place in the Arabic saga 
and, revised and embellished in Egypt in the course of the four- 
^ teenth century, is still recited by Arab story-tellers in the cafe of 

" AUtes'adl, KtM cUTenbtht cd dc Gotje {Levdcn, 1893), p 202. 

For the thcorr of climatic desiccation there is no sufficient evidence in historic 
ton; Alois Musi!, KcrShern Ntgi (New York, 1978), pp 304-19 
\ w tf Ma5 Af "™J* vol. ui, p. 383, YaqGt, Suidin, vol. tv, p. 384, cf. Mas'udi, 




Cairo, Beirut and Baghdad* Sayf, according to tradition, sought, 
but naturally failed to receive, Constantinople's aid against 
Abyssinia, for the latter power was Christian and therefore 
friendly to Byzantium. He was then presented by the Arab king 
of al-rjirah to the Persian sovereign, Kisra Anusharwan, at the 
Sasanid court in al-Mada*in (Seleucia-Ctesiphon). The destinies 
of the world were then chiefly in the hands of the Christian 
Byzantines and Mazdean Persians, Aksum acting as the un- 
official agent of Byzantium. The Christian Arabians were pro- 
Byzantine and looked to Constantinople for protection and 
countenance; the Jewish and pagan Arabians were pro-Persian 
and expected aid from Ctesiphon. In response to Sayf s prayers 
the Persian emperor in 575 sent eight hundred men under 
Wahraz (or Wahriz), who routed the Abyssinian garrison in 
al-Yaman and freed the country from the hated African rule. 
At first a system of joint administration was instituted with Sayf 
as titular head. Sayf took up his residence in the ancient castle 
of Ghumdan, which was evidently in ruins during the Abys- 
sinian rule. But soon al-Yaman was converted into a Persian 
satrapy and the South Arabians found they had only changed 
one master for another. 

In this tradition we have preserved for us a clear recollection 
of the rivalry between the two powers on either side of Arabia 
— Zoroastrian Persia and Christian Abyssinia (backed by By- 
zantium) — to inherit their neighbour, the defunct South Arabian 
kingdom. The native Christian Arabian sympathy with Byzan- 
tium served as a wedge for Abyssinian intervention, while Jewish 
and pagan leanings toward Persia gave the latter its opportunity. 
With the Syro-Arabian desert in the north barring the penetra- 
tion of world powers South Arabia thus acted as the gateway 
through which these powers found their way into the peninsula. 

In 628, the sixth year after the Hijrah, Badhun, the fifth 
Persian satrap of al-Yaman, embraced Islam. With the birth 
of this new religion the centre of interest in the peninsula shifted 
to the north. Henceforth the stream of Arabian history flowed 
in northern channels, with al-ftijaz replacing al-Yaman in 
public consideration. 



ASIDE from the South Arabian kingdoms a few petty states t. The 
evolved during the pre-Islamic period in the northern and central 
parts of the peninsula. These North Arabian states, like those 
of the south, drew their strength mainly from commerce and 
were in no sense militaristic either in their inception or in their 
development. The earliest among them was the Nabataean 

We read of no Assyrian campaign directed against the 
Nabataeans, because they were not then on the main route to the 
west. In the early part of the sixth century B.C. the Nabataeans 
(al-Anbaf, classical Nabataei) 1 came as nomadic tribes from 
what is today called Transjordan and occupied the land of the 
Edomites (Idumaeans, the descendants of Esau), from whom they 
later wrested Petra. The predecessors of the Edomites in this 
"land of Seir 1 ' were the Horites (Hurris). 5 The Nabataeans, 
from their metropolis Petra, came into possession of the neigh- 
bouring territory. Petra, a Greek word meaning rock, is a trans- 
lation of the Hebrew Sela* mentioned in Isaiah 16 : x, 42 : xi 
and 2 Kings 14 ; 7.* Al-Raqlm 4 is the Arabic correspondent and 
the modern name is Wadi Musa (the valley of Moses). The 
ancient city, located on an arid plateau three thousand feet high, 
presents today the spectacle of a vast glowing necropolis hewn 
in a rock (Umm al-Biyarah) whose sandstone strata exhibit 
almost ail the colours of the rainbow. 

For upwards of four hundred years, beginning toward the end 
of the fourth century B.C., Petra was a key city on the caravan 
route between Saba* and the Mediterranean. 

Our first detailed account of the early history of the Naba- 

* Heb Nabayuth, Ass>r Nabaitaj, Nabaitu, are apparently not the Nabataeans. 
Gtn, 14-6,36:20 5 CfaCb2 5 ia,Jkr. 49**6, Ob 3* 

Sec Joscphus, Anitqmiscs, Bk. 1V» ch 4l § 7, ch. ?, § 1, 




taeans comes from Diodorus Siculus (f after 57 B.C.). About 
312 B.C. they were strong enough to resist two expeditions sent 
against them by Antigonus, Alexander's successor as king of 
Syria, and returp victoriously to "the rock". 1 They were then, 
within the Ptolemaic sphere of influence. Later they became 
the allies of Rome and nominally co-operated in the famous in- J 
vasion of Arabia in 24 B.C. by GaDus. In the reign of rjarithath 
(al-rjarith, Aretas III, ca. 87-62 B.C.) the Nabataeans first came 
into close contact with the Romans, It was then that the royal 
coins were first struck. Julius Caesar in 47 B.C. called on Maliku 
(Malik, Malchus I) to provide him with cavalry for the Alexan- 
drian war. His successor, 'ObTdath f Ubaydah, Obodas III, ea.2&- 
9 B.C.), was the ruler under whom the Roman expedition to Arabia 
took place. Arabia Petraea, whose capital was Petra, reached its 
height under Irlarithath IV (9 B.C. to A.D. 40). At the time of 
Christ the Nabataean kingdom extended north as far as Damas- 
cus, which together with Coele-Syria was wrested from Seleucid 
hands by IJanthath III (ca~ 87 B.C.). It was an ethnarch of 
yarithath IV who endeavoured to arrest Paul in Damascus. 5 
Al-rjijr (Mada'in Salih) in northern al-Hijaz must have also in 
the first century of our era been included in the Nabataean 
kingdom, as the inscriptions there attest. The names of all the 
Nabataean monarchs from tJarithath I (169 B.C.) to the last 
independent ruler, Rabbll II (A.D. 70-106), are known to us. 3 
In A.D. 105 the Emperor Trajan put an end to the Nabataean 
autonomy and in the following year their territory became a 
regular Roman province. 

After Diodorus, Josephus (f ca. A.D. 95) is our chief source of 
information about the Nabataeans, but Josephus was interested 
in them only as they crossed wires with the Hebrews. To him 
Arabia meant the Nabataean state reaching eastward as far as 
the Euphrates. Malchus or Malichus (Ar. Malik), mentioned by 
Josephus 4 as the "king of Arabia" whom Herod and his father 
had befriended , and the Malchus 5 (Malchus II, A.D. 40-70) who 
about A.D. 67 sent 1000 horse and 5000 foot to the assistance of 
Titus in his attack on Jerusalem, were both Nabataeans. In 
I Mac. 5 : 25 and 2 Mac. 5 : 8 the Nabataeans are identified 
1 Diodonis, Bk. XIX, §§ 94-7. * 2 Cor. 1 1 : 32. 

* See the list in Cooke, North-Semitic Inscriptions > p 216 

* Atittfut/fts, Bk. XIV, ch. 14, § I; The Jewish War, Bk. I, ch. 14, § I. 

* Jewish War, Bk. Ill, ch. 4, § 2, 




with the Arabians. The modern yuwaytat Bedouins are regarded 
as the descendants of the Nabataeans. 

Though they spoke Arabic as an everyday language the Naba- 
taeans, in default of an Arabic script at that early date, used the 
Aramaic characters of their northern neighbours. Diodorus 1 
refers to a letter of theirs written to Antigonus "in Syriac charac- 
ters". Aramaic was used by them as the language of learning and 
trade, but the mistakes made in the Aramaic inscriptions which 
have survived, the Arabic proper names and the use of such 
Arabic expressions as ghayr (other than) betray the Arabic 
vernacular of their authors. 

This Nabatacan cursive script, taken from the Aramaic, 
developed in the third century of our era into the script of the 
North Arabic tongue, the Arabic of the Koran and of the present 1 
day. More particularly it was transformed into the round nasihi t 
script in distinction to the angular Kufi (Kufic), which owes its 
name to al-Kufah — though employed before it was founded— 
and was used almost exclusively for the Koran and early official 
documents, monuments and coins. One of the oldest Arabic in- " 
scriptions is that of al-Namarah in eastern rjawran, which goes 
back to A.D. 328 and was set up as an epitaph on the tomb of 
Imru'-al-Qays, a Lakhmid king of al-lrlirah. No Nabataean 
literature has come down to us other than epigraphic. 
Tht The Sinaitic peninsula, close to the Nabataean homeland and 

on^n C t ^ ie scene °f promulgation of the Ten Commandments, has 
ofihe within the last years yielded probably the oldest alphabetic 
alphabet j nscrl ptf ons cver found. These inscriptions were discovered at 
Sarablt al-Khadim and removed to the Cairo Museum. Many 
attempts have been made at their decipherment. The writing was 
done presumably by Sinaitic workers in the turquoise mines and 
dates from about 1850 B.C. — some eight centuries before the 
Ahiram inscription of Jubayl (ancient Gebal, Gr. Byblos) found 
by Montet and considered one of the earliest Phoenician in- 

After the development of the Sinaitic alphabet its characters 
were carried into northern Syria, and there turned into actual 
cuneiform, as the Ra*s al-Shamrah tablets of the late fifteenth 
century indicate. 3 This newly discovered script is clearly alpha- 

* Bk, XIX, ch 96. 

■ F.-A SchaefFcr in Syria, vol. x (1929), pp. 285 97, Charles Virolleaud, tbia\ 
pp. 304-10. 

*.CH;'VI $ltl&% ViUDfi l J\Jbt\n-.:4*JXiJ, \f x j- ; xv a x- x ivxix uvu ;vio y y t 

•:&rS\*^^^ . ' ■ - • " " ■■ ■ ' r • 

Jbeti^andrSem clay 

ftablcfe its ^ett^/wcre not borrowed from the earlier Surncro- 

|Akka<3i4n^ In it the Sinaitic alphabet was conven- 

^j^i^iintd'mdge-shaped signs. 

it. has been recognized by modem scholars 

rthat : &e^Hoenxcians, who were the first to use an exclusively 

^j&abeUc system of writing, must have originally received the 

f$asis:fpf their system from Egyptian hieroglyphic sources, but the 

:gap^)ilways -seemed wide between the two systems. The Sinaitic 

i^togjiiow^ comes in to bridge that gap. The Sinaitic Semite 

^p^:w':i^tmce t from the hieroglyphics the sign for ox-head 

V(npt cmhg'-what l4 ox-«head" was in the Egyptian language) and 

lulled this sign by the name of the ox-head in his own language, 

^/^.,Theri'according to the principle of acrophony he used this 

;sigri for the Bound a. The same treatment he accorded to the sign 

:]foi*;*{Kbiise", calling it beth and using it for the sound b and so on. 

;?l^iiis :Sinaitic origin of the alphabet explains how it could have 

: )hi^ on the one hand to South Arabia, where it 

;%n3enmitan independent development and was employed by the 

|Mmaeahs perhaps as early as isooB.C, and howon theother hand 

ytf $ij& ! came~a* northward to the Phoenician coast. With the trade 

^itu^^bi^rwhich the Arabs sold to the Phoenicians, went the 

/^pfiabct^ust as it later went with the trade from the Phoenicians 

^tojthei Greeks to become the mother of all European alphabets. 

^The^insm discovered in the volcanic Safa region of 

-^^wan^which;date from.about A.D. 100 or later, 1 as well as the 

|Dcdam{e^ ai-'Ulain northern al-rjijaz 

|(me^sd^caHe'd prbto-Araoic) of the seventh to the third century 

■iB^and t^ writings of the same region, particularly 

V^al^yj^^arid. Xayma* (of the fifth century B.C. to the fourth 

v^^-^^^fy); represent in their epigraphy by-forms of the 

t^j^M ^ ut *e language of all these inscrip- 

}J?§^\?s^Nort but little from the well-known 

^^s^ graffiti are a development of the 

another, development of which is seen in the 

If^fS^^ ;The^§afe inscriprions are the northernmost South 

fc'iiV^"^* V * AVInnetti^ Study of ths Likyanitt and Thamudic Inscriptions 

^;;i?^iP^^»^^^«s^x'« 'Syrit avant V Islam (Paris, 1907), pp. 57-73; 
:^^d^a cu $ a fc et dans U Djtbtl ed-Drux 

/(Pans ioQt), p P ^^ 4 ; - - ' 




Arabian writings found. The South Arabic script has also sur- 
vived in Ethiopia 

The historical relations of the three northern peoples who used 
these similar scripts, Safaitic, Lihyanite and Thamudic, have not 
been completely determined. The Lihyanites, whom Pliny 1 
mentions under the name Lechieni, were an ancient people, 
probably a section of the Thamud, and their capital Daydan 
was once a Minaean colony on the great trade route which 
carried the merchandise of al-Yaman and India to the Medi- 
terranean ports. After the fall of Petra (A.D. 105) the Lihyanites 
seem also to have held the important Nabataean centre al-PJijr 
(modern Mada*in Salih), once a Thamudic town- The Minaean 
as well as the Nabataean civilization greatly influenced the later 
Lihyanite culture. The ruins of al-'Ula, which include tombs 
decorated with sculptures in high relief, indicate an advanced 
pre-Islamic civilization of which very little is known.* 
Pen* Petra reached its greatest wealth and prosperity in the first 

century of our era under the patronage of the Romans, who 
treated it as a buffer state against Parthia. On three sides, east, 
west and south, the city was impregnable. Carved out of the 
solid rock, it was surrounded on all sides by precipitous and 
almost impassable cliffs and was entered through a narrow 
winding defile. The city provided the only spot between the 
Jordan and Central Arabia where water was not only abundant 
but invitingly pure. Here the South Arabians obtained on their 
northward caravan march fresh relays of camels and drivers. 
Thus the Nabataeans formed an important link in the com- 
mercial chain by which South Arabia flourished. The spectacular 
ruins of Petra still attract many tourists and constitute an im- 
portant source of income to the modern state of Transjordan. 

Petra had a kind of Ka'bah with Dushara (Dusares), wor- 
shipped under the form of a black rectangular stone, at the head 
of the pantheon; Allat, identified by Herodotus 8 with Aphrodite 
Urania, was the chief female deity. Dushara (dhu-Shara, i.e. 
the lord of Shara) was later associated with the vine, intro- 
duced to the land of Nabataeans in the Hellenistic period, and 

* Bk. VI, ch. 32. 

* Consult Eduard Glaser, Skizze der Geschichte und Geographic Arabtem (Berlin, 
iSoo), vol. 11, pp. 98*127; Jausscn and Savignac, Mission crchiologiqut en Arabi$ 
(Paris, 1909), pp. 250-91. 

» Bk. Ill, ch. 8. 


as the god of wine borrowed some of the traits of Dionysus- 

/>ow AfrxanStr Kennedy , "to Hi History and M(*»ut»*^ts { Caurfrt Lif* ) 


* In the first two centuries after Christ, as the sea route to India 
became more and more familiar to the Roman sailors, as the 




caravan route from east to west was gradually diverted to a 
more northerly region centring at Palmyra, and as the north- 
to-south trade took a course farther east corresponding to the 
later pilgrimage route and the present rjijaz Railway, Petra lost 
its advantageous position and the Nabataean state began to 
decline. After the reduction of the city in A.D. 105 through the 
cupidity and short-sightedness of Trajan, Arabia Petraea was 
incorporated (106) into the Roman empire under the name 
Provincia Arabia, and henceforth the history of Petra remained 
almost a blank for many centuries. 1 

The new conditions created in Western Asia by the Parthian 
conquest of Mesopotamia and the new routes which began to be 
used on a large scale after the first century of our era gave 
prominence to a city situated in an oasis in the middle of the 
Syrian desert and whose fame has since become world wide. 
This is the city of Palmyra (Ar. Tadmur), whose present ruins 
are among the most magnificent and least-studied remains of 
antiquity. Located between the two rival empires of Parthia 
and Rome, Palmyra depended for its security upon the main- 
tenance of a balance between the two and in profiting by its neu- 
trality. 2 Its geographic position, with its plentiful supply of fresh 
and mineral waters, afforded a rendezvous not only for the eastern 
and western trade but for the south-to-north commerce starting 
in South Arabia. The "chief of the caravan" and the "chief of the 
market" figure in inscriptions as leading citizens. 3 In the course 
of the second and third centuries of our era this desert metropolis 
became one of the richest cities of the Near East. 

Tadmor (the early Semitic name of Palmyra) must have been 
a very ancient settlement, for it was cited under the name Tad- 
mar of Amurru* in an inscription of Tiglath-Pileser I (ca* 
1 100 B.C.). So impressed by its ruins were the Arab story-tellers 
that they ascribed its origin to the jinn who, they believed, had 
built it for King Solomon* 

Exactly when the Arabs came into possession of Palmyra local 

tradition does not seem to remember. The first authentic mention 

of the town is when Mark Antony in 42-41 B.C. made a vain 

1 A recently identified Nabataean site, 'RM, tv.cnty-five miles east of al-'Aqabab, 
is koranic Iram (stir. 89 : 6). 

* Plmy, Bk. V, ch. 21. * Cooke, pp. 274, 279. 

* Luckenhill, vol, t, §§ 287, 30S. The Hebrew chronicler (2 Ch. 8 : 4) and the 
Greek translator of 1 K. 9 : 18 confused it with Tamar in Idumaea built by Solomon* 
Cf. Ezek. 47 : 19, 48 : 28. 


' attempt to possess himself of its riches. Its earliest native inscrip- 
tion goes back to 9 B.C., at which time Palmyra was already an 
important trade centre between the Roman and Parthian states, 
t The city must have come within the Roman political orbit 
early in the imperial period, for we find decrees relative to its 
customs duties issued in A.D. 17. In the time of Hadrian (A.D. 
II7-38) Palmyra and its dependent cities became vassals of 
Rome. As a consequence of Hadrian's visit in 130, the city 
received the name Hadriana Palmyra* Septimius Severus (A.D. 
193-2 1 1) transformed Palmyra and its towns into provincial 
cities of the empire. At the beginning of the third century Pal- 
myra assumed the status of a colony, but even then it must have 
enjoyed administrative independence with only a nominal recog- 
nition of Roman suzerainty. Palmyrenes then began to add to 
their names Roman ones. The Romans recognized the city's 
military importance, for their road from Damascus to the 
Euphrates passed through it. 

Palmyra reached its period of splendour between A.D. 130 
and 270. To this period most of its inscribed monuments belong, 
Its international trade extended as far east as China, and as a 
city created by the caravan trade it became the true heir of Petra. 

The Palmyrenes did not distinguish themselves as warriors odaynath 
until their chieftain Odaynath (Odenathus, Ar. Udhaynah) ^ pbm 
drove out of Syria Shapur I, who in A.D. 260 had captured the cn ° m 
Emperor Valerian and conquered a large portion of Syria. 
Odaynath pursued Shapur to the very walls of his capital, 
Ctesiphon (al-Mada'in). In the protracted struggle between the 
H Romans and the Sasanids, who succeeded (226) the Parthians, 
the Palmyrene chief sided with the former and was appointed in 
262 dux Orienti$ % vice-emperor over the Orient. The Emperor 
i Gallienus bestowed on him the honorific title of Imperator and 
acknowledged him master of the Roman legions in the East 
This meant that over Asia Minor and Egypt the supreme author- 
ity was nominally in his hand; over Syria, North Arabia and 
possibly Armenia it was virtually so. Thus did Palmyra become 
^mistress of Western Asia. Four years later (266-7) Odaynath and 
, his eldest son were treacherously assassinated at yims (Emesa), 
- possibly atthe instigation of Rome, which had suspected him of 
^disloyalty. r < 

; Odaynath's beautiful and ambitious wife Zenobia (Aramaic 




Bath-Zabbay, Ar. al-Zabba , also Zaynab) proved a worthy 
successor. Ruling on behalf of her young son Wahb-AUath (the 
gift of al-Lat, Greek Athenodorus) she arrogated to herself the 
title of Queen of the East and for a time defied the Roman empire. 
With masculine energy she pushed forward the frontiers of her 
kingdom so as to include Egypt and a large part of Asia Minor, 
where the Roman garrisons in 270 were thrust back as far as 
Ankara (Ancyra). Even in Chalcedon opposite Byzantium a 
military attempt was made to establish her rule. Her victorious 
troops in the same year occupied Alexandria, the second city 
of the empire, and her minor son, who was then proclaimed 
King of Egypt, issued coins from which the head of Aurelian 
was omitted. Her success on the battlefield was due in the main 
to her two Palmyrene generals, Zabbay and Zabda. 

Aurelian at last bestirred himself. In a battle at Antioch 
followed by another near yims he defeated Zabda, and in the 
spring of 272 he entered Palmyra. The proud Arab queen fled 
in despair on a swift dromedary into the desert, but was finally 
taken captive and led in golden chains before the chariot of the 
victor to grace his triumphal entry into Rome. En route to his 
capital Aurelian was informed of an uprising in Palmyra and 
thereupon speedily returned to the city, completely destroyed 
its walls and dissolved its commonwealth. The ornaments of the 
glorious Temple of the Sun (Bel) he transferred to the new temple 
he erected in Rome to the sun-god of the East in memory of his 
notable victory. The city was left in ruins, in practically the same 
state as at present. Thus did the brilliant and meteoric glory of 
Palmyra come to an end. 

The Palmyrene civilization was an interesting blend of Greek, 
Syrian and Parthian (Iranian) elements. It is significant not 
only in itself but, as in the case of the Nabataean civilization 
which we have already studied, as an illustration of the cultural 
heights which the Arabians of the desert are capable of attain- 
ing when the proper opportunities present themselves. That the 
Palmyrenes were of Arabian stock is evidenced from the proper 
names and the frequent occurrence of Arabic words in their 
Aramaic inscriptions. The language they spoke was a dialect 
of Western Aramaic not unlike the Nabataean and Egyptian 
Aramaic. Their religion had the prominent solar features that 
characterized the religion of North Arabians. Bel, of Babylonian 

7 8 



origin, stood at the head of the pantheon; Baal Shamin (the lord 
of the heavens) figured in votive inscriptions and no less than 
twenty other names of deities occur in Palmyrene. 

With the fall of the ephemeral kingdom of Palmyrena land 
traffic sought and found other paths. Busra (Bostra) in IJawran 
and other Ghassanid towns became beneficiaries of the desert 
city as that city had itself once been the beneficiary of Petra. 
3 The The Ghassanids claim descent from an ancient South Arabian 
tribe, headed formerly by f Amr Muzayqiya* ibn- c Amir Ma*-al- 
Sama', which is supposed to have fled to IJawran x and al- 
Balqa* from al-Yaman towards the end of the third Christian 
century at the destruction of the Ma'rib dam. Jafnah, a son of 
'Amr, is regarded as the founder of the dynasty, for which abu-al- 
Fida' 2 claims thirty-one sovereigns, rjamzah al-Isfahani 3 thirty- 
two, and al-Mas f udi 4 and ibn-Qutaybah 6 only eleven. These 
figures show how obscure Jafnid history has remained to Arab 

This Yamani tribe displaced the Sallh, the first Arabians to 
found a kingdom in Syria, and established itself in the region 
south-east of Damascus at the northern end of the great trans- 
port route that bound MaVib with Damascus. In course of time 
the banu-Ghassan were Christianized and Syrianized, adopting 
the Aramaic language of Syria without, however, abandoning 
their native Arabic tongue. Like other Arabian tribes in the 
Fertile Crescent they thus became bilingual. About the end of the 
fifth century they were brought within the sphere of Byzantine 
political influence and used as a buffer state to stay the overflow 
of Bedouin hordes, serving a purpose not unlike that of Trans- 
jordan under the British today. Facing the Byzantine empire 
as they did, the Ghassanids adopted a form of Christianity which, 
though of the local Monophysite variety, still coincided with 
their political interests. Their capital was at first a movable 
camp; later it may have become fixed at al-Jabiyah in the 
Jawlan (Gaulanitis) and for some time was located at Jilliq. 6 
TheSyro- The Ghassanid kingdom, like its rival and* relative at al- 


kingdom i Assyrian JjfaurSnu (cf. LucUnbill, vol. i, §§ 672, 82 1), bxbbcal Bashan, classical 
hlw t Aurambs. 

g * Ta'rikk {Constantinople, 12S6), vol. i, pp. 76*7. 

* Op. cit. pp 115-22. * Muruj l vol iu, pp. 217-21. 

* A/'Afa'drzf, cd. F, Wustenfcld (Gotttngen, 1850), pp 314-16. 

f Consult Leone Caetani, Ann alt dclV Islam (Milan, 1910), vol. ni, p, 92S. 


girah, the kingdom of the Lakhmids, attained its greatest 
importance during the sixth century after Christ. In this century 
al-$arith II ibn-Jabalah of Ghassan (fa. 529-69) and al-Mun- 
dhir III ibn-Ma-al-Sama 1 of al-Hlrah (Alamundarus of Byzan* 
tine histories, f 554) dominate Arab history. This al-IJarith 
(nicknamed al-A'raj, the lame, by Arab chroniclers) is the first 
authentic name and by far the greatest in Jafnid annals. His 
history can be checked with the Greek sources. 1 As a reward for 
defeating his formidable Lakhmid rival, al-Mundhir III, the 
Byzantine Emperor Justinian appointed him (529) lord over all 
the Arab tribes of Syria and created him patricius and phylarch 
—the highest rank next to that of the emperor himself. In Arabic 
the title was rendered simply rnalik, king. 

The greater part of al-^arith's long reign was occupied with 
wars in the service of the Byzantine interests. About 544, in a 
battle with al-Mundhir III, the latter captured a son of al- 
ftarith and offered him as a sacrifice to al- c Uzza, the counterpart 
of the Greek Aphrodite. 2 But ten years later al-J^an'th took his 
revenge and slew his Lakhmid enemy in a battle in the district 
of Qinnasrln. This battle is perhaps the "Day of yallmah" of 
Arabic tradition, yalimah being the daughter of al-IJarith who, 
before the battle, perfumed with her own hands the hundred 
Ghassanid champions ready for death and clad them in shrouds 
ofjvvhite linen in addition to coats of mail. 3 
* Inv$63 al-ftarith paid a visit to the court of Justinian I at 
Constantinople. 4 The appearance of this Bedouin phylarch left a 
deep impression on the emperor's entourage. During aUyarith's 
stay in Constantinople he secured the appointment of the Mono- 
physite bishop Jacob Baradaeus (Ya'qub al~Barda*i) of Edessa 
as prelate of the Syrian Arabs. So zealous was this Jacob in the 
propagation of the faith that the Syrian Monophysite church 
became known after him as Jacobite. 

AWJarith's successor was his son al-Mundhir, also Alarnun- Ai- 
dants in Byzantine chronicles. Like his father, al-Mundhir proved 
an ardent protector of Monophvsitism, 5 and this temporarily ai- 

A Frocopius, Bk. I, ch. l? r §§ 4?«8, Joannes Malalas, Chronographs, cd. L. 

» 1? rf (Bonn ' lS 3 l >* PP* 435» 461 st?. * Procopius, Bk. II, ch. 28, § 13. 

Ihn-Qutayhah, pp. 314*15; cf. ahu*al-Fida , vol. i, p. 84. 

* Theophanes, Chronograph^ ed. C. de Boor (Leipzig, 1S83), p. 240. 
„ John of Bphesus, EcckstGstical Htstary, ed. Wilham Curcton (Oxford, 1853), 
PpJSSUT, tr. R 4 £ayne Smith (Oxford, iS6o), pp. 584-5. 




alienated the sympathy of Byzantium and resulted in an open 
rebellion on the part of the Ghassanids. In 580 he visited Con- 
stantinople with his two sons and was received with great honour 
by Tiberius II, who replaced the precious diadem on his head 
with a still more precious crown. In the same year he successfully 
raided and burned al-rlirah, 1 the capital of his Lakhmid foes. 
But this was not enough to remove the suspicion of treachery to 
the imperial cause with which his father before him had been 
charged. At the dedication of a church in Huwarln, between 1 
Damascus and Palmyra, he was apprehended and taken prisoner 
to Constantinople, later to be incarcerated in Sicily. Likewise his 
son and successor, al-Nu f man, who ventured to raid and devas- 
tate Byzantine territory, was carried away to Constantinople. 
F»n of After al-Mundhir and al-Nu*man anarchy seems to have pre- 
Gb«gfin* va ^ ec * * n Ghassanland. The various tribes in the Syrian desert 
chose their own chieftains. The capture of Jerusalem and 
Damascus (613-14) by the Sasanid Khusraw Parwlz dealt the 
last blow to the Jafnid dynasty. Whether Heraclius on his 
reconquest of Syria in 629 restored the Syro-Arab phylarchate 
is uncertain, Arab chroniclers make Jabalah ibn-al-Ayham the 
last king of the house of Ghassan. On the memorable battlefield 
of Yarmuk (636) this monarch fought on the Byzantine side 
against the Arabians, but later adopted Islam. As he was cir- 
cumambulating the Ka*bah in the course of his first pilgrimage, 
so the story goes, a Bedouin stepped on his cloak and the 
ex-king slapped him on the face. The Caliph *Umar decreed 
that Jabalah should either submit to a similar blow from the 
hand of the Bedouin or pay a fine, upon which Jabalah renounced 
Islam and retired to Constantinople. 3 

The degree of culture attained by the Ghassanids, neighbours 
of the Byzantines, was undoubtedly higher than that to which 
their rivals on the Persian borderland, the Lakhmids, ever 
attained. Under their regime and during the earlier Roman 
period a peculiar civilization seems to have developed along the 
entire eastern fringe of Syria from a mixture of Arabic, Syrian 
and Greek elements. Houses of basalt, palaces, triumphal arches, 
public baths, aqueducts, theatres and churches stood where today 
there is nothing but utter desolation. The eastern and southern 

1 John of Epbcsus, p. 415 (text),= p. 385 (tr.). 
* Ibn-'Abd-Rabbihi, Vqd, vol. i f pp 140-41. 


slopes of Ilawran have preserved the ruins of almost three hun- 
dred towns and villages where only a few exist at the present day* 

A number of the pre-lslamic poets of Arabia found in the 
Ghassanid phylarchs munificent patrons. Labid, the youngest of 
the seven poets who composed the famous "Mu'allaqat", fought 
on the Ghassanid side in the battle of IJallmah. When al- 
Nabighah al-Dhubyani fell out with the Lakhmid king he found 
in the court of the sons of al-Harith a haven of refuge. The 
Madfnese poet Hassan ibn-Thabit (lx ca. 563), who claimed kin- 
ship with the banu-Ghassan, visited their court in his youth before 
he became the poet laureate of Muhammad and made a number 
of references to it in his dtwdn (anthology). In an apocryphal 
passage ascribed to him 1 we have a glowing account of the 
luxury and magnificence of Jabalah's court with its Makkan and 
Babylonian and Greek singers and musicians of both sexes and 
its free use of wine.* 

From time immemorial streams of Arabian wanderers have 4- 
been want to trickle slang the eastern coast of their peninsula. 
to the Tigro-Euphrates valley and settle therein. About the 
beginning of the third century of our era a number of such 
tribes, calling themselves Tanukh and said to have been of 
Yamanite origin, found an abode in the fertile region west of the 
Euphrates. Their advent may have coincided with the disturb- 
ances consequent to the fall of the Arsacid Parthian and the 
establishment of the Sasanid dynasty (a.D. 226), 

The Tanukh lived first in tents. Their temporary camp 
developed in course of time into permanent al-ftlrah (from 
Syriac fierta, camp), which lay about three miles south of 
al-Kufah, not far from ancient Babylon. This al-IJlrah became 
the capital of Persian Arabia. 

The native population was Christian belonging to the East 
Syrian (later Nestorian) Church and was referred to by Arab 
authors as *ibdd % i.e. worshippers (of Christ). 3 Some of the Tanukh 
were subsequently Christianized and domiciled in northern 
Syria. The Tanukhs who later came to southern Lebanon and 
professed the secret Druze religion trace their origin to the 
Lakhmid kings of ai-yirah.* 

* Abu-al*Faraj aMsbahani, al-AghSm (BOiaq, 12S4-5), vol. xvi, p. 15. 
Among the Christian families living today in southern Lebanon arc some which 
traccthcir descent to Ghassanid origin. » Cf. Tabari, vol. i, p 770, 

i <X Hitti, The Origins cf the Druu People and Reheum (New York, 1028 
reprint to$6)» p 21 ^ 


Traditionnames Malik ibn-Fahm al-Azdi 1 as the first chieftain 
of this Arab settlement in ai-'Iraq and makes his son Jadhimah 
al-Abrash a vassal of Ardashir. But the real founder of the 
Lakhmid kingdom was f Amr ibn-'Adi ibn-Nasr ibn-Rabi'ah 
ibn-Lakhm, a son of Jadhlmah's sister, who had married a 
scrvantof Jadhimah/Amr established himself in al-rjlrah, which 
he made his capital. 

With the establishment of the Nasrid or Lakhmid dynasty in 
the latter part of the third century of our era we begin to tread 
on firm historical ground. The names of some twenty Lakhmid 
kings have been handed down to us, but the first clearly deline- 
ated personage is Imru'-al-Qays I (f A.D. 328), whose epitaph 
is the oldest proto-Arabic inscription yet discovered. The script 
is a variation of the Nabataean character and shows many signs 
of transition towards the later North Arabic script, particularly 
in the matter of joining the letters.* 

A descendant of Imru*-al-Qays was al-Nu'man I al-A f war (the 
one-eyed, ea. 400-418), celebrated in poetry and legend. He 
is credited with having built al-Khawarnaq, a famous castle 
near al-rjfirah, as a residence for Bahrain Gor, the son of Yaz- 
dagird I (399-420), who was anxious to have his son brought up 
in the salubrious air of the desert, Al-Khawarnaq was declared 
a miracle of art and was ascribed by later historians to a Byzan- 
tine architect who suffered the fate common to many legendary 
architects in being put to death on the completion of his work 
— a favourite motif in such stories — so that the construction 
might never be duplicated. Al-Nu'man remained a pagan 
throughout his life and at one time persecuted his own Christian 
subjects and prevented the Arabs from visiting St, Simeon 
Stylites, though in the latter part of his life he felt more kindly 
disposed towards Christianity. Simeon was himself an Arab 
and the crowds of the desert flocked to see the wonderful sight 
of this ascetic living on a pillar-top. The erection of al-Sadir, a 
castle associated in poetry with ai-Khawarnaq and lying "in the 
midst of the desert between al-rjlirah and Syria**, 3 is also 
attributed to al-Nu'man. Al-Sadir and other Lakhmid Jfirahs 
are today but names. None are identified except al-Khawarnaq. 
Ai-Hirah Under ai-Nu'man's son and successor, al-Mundhir I (ta. 

at the 

height of 1 The A*d and the Tanukh v,erc confederated into one tribe in al-'Iraq. 

its power t Dussaud, Les Arcbes en Syrit, pp. 34.5, * Yfcqut, vol. ii, p. 375. 


A J). 4tS-62), al-fj!irah began to play its important role in the 
events of the day. So great was al-Mundhir's influence that he 
could force the Persian priests to crown Bahram, once the 
protege of his father, over the claims of a powerful pretender to 
the throne. In 421 he fought beside his Sasanid suzerain against 
the Byzantines. 

In the first half of the sixth century al-Hlrah was ruled by 
another Mundhir, al-Mundhir III (ca. 505-54), whom the 
Arabs call ibn-Ma -al-Sama 5 ,Ma*-al-Sama' (the water of heaven) 
being a sobriquet of his mother Mariyah or Mawlyah. His 
was the most illustrious rule in Lakhmid annals. He proved 
a thorn in the side of Roman Syria, His raids devastated the 
land as far as Antioch until he found more than a match in 
the Ghassanid ai-PIarith. 1 About this al-Mundhir, al-Ag/idni* 
relates the curious story of the two boon-companions whom he 
is said to have buried alive in the course of a carousal. 

His son and successor, *Amr, surnamed ibn-Hind(A.D. 554-69), 
though tyrannical was a munificent patron of poets. The greatest 
bards of Arabia then living, such as Tarafah ibn~al-*Abd, al- 
Harith ibn-Hillizah and \Amr ibn-Kulthum (three of the seven 
reputed authors of ''Golden Odes", Mu*allagdt) f flocked to his 
court. e Amr, like other Lakhmid and Jafnid monarchs, recognized 
in the contemporary poets leaders of public opinion and potential 
publicity agents. Hence the lavish bounties which he and other 
patrons, with the hope of seeing their influence extended among 
the Bedouins, bestowed on the poets who frequented their courts. 
f Amr met his death at the hand of his proteg6 ibn-Kulthum, 
who thus avenged an insult to his mother by the king. 

Hind, the mother of * Amr, was a Christian princess of Ghas- The 
san; others say of Kindah. She founded in the capital a convent gg^ 
which survived into the second century of Islam; 3 Yaqut 4 has Chns* 
preserved for us its dedicatory inscription. In this inscription l5ani,ed 
Hind calls herself "the maid of Christ and the mother of His 
slave [*Amr] and the daughter of His slaves". That there were 
^Christians among the populace professing the East Syrian creed 
* is indicated by the many references to the bishops of al-rjirah, 
one of whom lived as early as A.D. 410. 

1 * £*copn*s, Bk. I, ck J7, §§ Malalas, pp. 434-5, 445, 460 

- T*b*n. rot it, pp. 188a, 1903. * Vol, ii. p. 709* 




The Lakhmid dynasty came to an end with al-Nu'man III 
abu-Qabus (ca. 580-602), son of al-Mundhir IV. He was a 
patron of the famous poet al-Nabighah al-Dhubyani before the 
latter was driven from ai-I^Irah as a result of a false accusation. 
Having been brought up in a Christian home, al-Nu'man was 
converted to Christianity and became the first and only Christian 
Lakhmid king- That no member of the Lakhmid house saw fit 
before this time to adopt Christianity, the faith of the Byzantines, 
may be explained on the ground that the IjTrah kings found it 
to their political interest to remain friendly with Persia. Al- 
Nu'man was baptized into the East Syrian (Nestorian) com- 
munion, the one least objectionable to Persia. 

The Arab civilization of al-rjirah, which faced Persia, did not 
attain the high degree reached by the Arab civilizations of Petra, 
Palmyra and Ghassanland under Syro- Byzantine influence. The 
Arabs of al-rjlrah spoke Arabic as a daily language but used 
Syriac in writing, just as the Nabataeans and Palmyrenes spoke 
Arabic and wrote in Aramaic. The Christians in the lower valley 
of the Euphrates acted as the teachers of the heathen Arabs in 
reading, writing and religion. From al-rjirah the beneficent 
influences spread into Arabia proper* There are those who hold 
that it was the Syrian church of al-rjlrah which was responsible 
for the introduction of Christianity into Najran. According to 
traditions preserved in ibn-Rustah 1 it was from al-Hlrah that the 
Quraysh acquired the art of writing and the system of false 
belief. 2 From this it is clear that Persian cultural influences 
likewise found their way into the peninsula through the Lakhmid 

After al~Nu*man Iyas ibn-Qabtsah of the Tayyi* ruled 
(602-1 1), but beside him stood a Persian resident in control of 
the government. The Persian kings thus incautiously abolished 
the system of Arab vassalage and appointed Persian governors 
to whom the Arab chieftains were subordinate. Such was still 
the arrangement in 633 when Khalid ibn-al-Walld at the head 
of the Moslem army received the submission of al-rjirah. 8 

As the Ghassanids stood in relation to the Byzantines and the 
Lakhmids to the Persians so did the Kindite kings of Central 

1 Al*A % I&g al-Nafisah, ed. de Goeje (Leyden, 1892), p. 192, U. 2-3, and p. 217, 
U. 9-io. Cf. lbn-Qutaybah, pp. 273-4. 

* At. zanda$ch t from Per*, zandlk - Magian, fire-worshipper; Manicbaean, 
heretic, 1 Today where al-tflrah once stood lie ft few low mound*. 


Arabia stand in relation to the last Tubba's of al-Yaman, 
.Within the peninsula they were the only rulers to receive the title 
of maJik (king), usually reserved by the Arabians for foreign 

' Though of South Arabian origin and, at the time preceding 
the rise of Islam, settled in the region to the west of Fladramawt, 
the powerful Kindah tribe is not mentioned in early South 
Arabian inscriptions; the first mention in history is in the fourth 
century of the Christian era. The reputed founder of the dynasty, 
rjujr, surnamed Akil al-Murar, was according to tradition a 
stepbrother of the yimyarite Hassan ibn-Tubba f and was 
appointed by the latter about A.D. 480 ruler of certain tribes 
whom the Tubba* had conquered in Central Arabia. 1 In this 
position rjujr was succeeded by his son 'Amr. 'Amr's son al- 
rjarith, the most valiant king of Kindah, was the one who for 
a short time after the death of the Persian Emperor Qubadh, 
rendered himself master of al-yirah, only to lose it (about 529) 
to the Lakhmid al-Mundhir III. Al-Mundhir put al-yarith to 
death in 529 together with about fifty other members of the 
royal family, a fatal blow to the power of Kindah- Al-rjarith 
may have resided at al-Anbar, a city on the Euphrates about 
forty miles north-west of Baghdad. 

The discord among the sons of al-rjarith, each heading a 
, tribe, led to the dissolution of the confederacy and the final 
downfall of the ephemeral kingdom. The remnant of Kindah 
were forced back to their settlements in fladramawt. This 
brought to an end one of the two rivals of al-rjirah in the 
three-cornered fight for supremacy among the North Arabians, 
the other rival being the Ghassanids. The celebrated poet 
Irnru*-al-Qays, composer of one of the greatest of the Golden 
Odes,* was a descendant of the royal Kindah line and made many 
vain attempts to regain a part of his heritage, H is poems are bitter 
with rancour against the Lakhmids. In quest of aid he went as 
far as Constantinople, hoping to win the sympathy of Justinian, 

( the enemy of al-rjllrah. On his way back, so the tradition goes, 
he was poisoned (about 540) at Ankara by an emissary of the 
emperor. 3 

1 Isfahan*, Ta'rttA, p. 140; ibn^Qutaybali, p. 30S; Gunnar Ohtider, The Kings cf 
A*K«fe (Lurid, J927)»PP 3^9- * See below, p 94. 

* At-Ya'qQbi, Tctrm, cd. M. Th. Houtsraa (L^den, 18S3), vol i, p, 251; OHnder, 




In early Islam a number of Kindites came into prominence. 
Chief among these was al-Ash*ath lbn-Qays, the rladramawt 
chieftain who distinguished himself in the conquest of Syria 
and al-*Iraq and was rewarded by the governship of a Persian 
province. The descendants of al-Ash*ath held important posts 
under the Umayyad cahphs in Syria. Al-Muqanna', 1 the veiled 
prophet of Khurasan who posed as an incarnation of the deity and 
for years defied the forces of the 'Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi, was 
probably a Persian, not a Kindite. The earliest philosopher of 
Arabian blood was Ya'qub tbn-Ishaq al-Kmdi, 2 whose millen- 
nium Baghdad celebrated in 1962 

Kindah's rise is interesting not only in itself but as the first 
attempt in inner Arabia to unite a number of tribes around the 
central authority of one common chief As such the experiment 
established a precedent for al-Hijaz and Muhammad 

A hero of Thomas Moore's Lath Rookh See below, p 370 


Obv- Trajan's head; rev. city goddess of Pctra, to be identified with 



IN its broad outline Arabian history comprises three main 

I. The Sabaeo-Himyarite period, ending at the beginning of 
the sixth century after Christ; 

z^The JahilTyah period, which in a sense extends from "the 
creation of Adam" down to the mission of Muhammad, but more 
particularly, as used here, covers the century immediately pre- 
ceding the rise of Islam; 

3. The Islamic period, extending to the present day. 

The term jahtliyah> usually rendered "time of ignorance" or Thejahi- 
"barbarism", in reality means the period in which Arabia had Kyah day * 
no dispensation, no inspired prophet, no revealed book; for 
igtiorauce and barbarism can hardly be applied to such a cul- 
tured "and lettered society as that developed by the South 
Arabians* The word occurs several times in the Koran (3 i 148, 
5 * 55> 33 * 33* 48 : 26). In his anxiety to wean his people 

'frompre-Islanuc religious ideas, particularly from idolatry, the 
intensely monotheistic Muhammad declared that the new 
religion was to obliterate all that had gone before it. This was 

later interpreted as constituting a ban on all pre-Islamic ideas 
and ideals. But ideas are hard to kill, and no one person's veto 
is strong enough to cancel the past. 

Unlike the South Arabians the vast majority of the population 
of North Arabia, including al-IJijaz and Najd, is nomadic. The 
history of the Bedouins is in the main a record of guerilla wars 
called ayydm al-Arab (the days of the Arabians), in which there 
was a great deal of raiding and plundering but little bloodshed. 
The sedentary population of al-IJijaz and Najd developed no 

"ancient culture of its own. In this they were unlike their neigh- 
bours and ^kindred, the Nabataeans, Palmyrenes, Ghassanids 
* and Lakhmids, The Nabataeans, and to a larger extent the 

s 7 




Palmyrenes, were partially Aramaicized; the Ghassanids and 
Lakhmids were South Arabian colonists amidst Syro-Byzantine 
and Syro-Persian cultures. Ourstudy of the J ahiliyah period there- 
fore limits itself to a survey of the battles between the northern 
Bedouin tribes in the century preceding the Hijrah and to an 
account of the outside cultural influences operating among the 
settled inhabitants of al-$ ijaz preparatory to the rise of Islam. 

The light of authentic record illumines but faintly the Jahi- 
liyah age* Our sources for this period, in which the North 
Arabians had no system of writing, are limited to traditions, 
legends, proverbs, and above all to poems, none of which, how- 
ever, were committed to writing before the second and third 
centuries after the Hijrah, two to four hundred years after the 
events which they were supposed to commemorate. Though 
traditional and legendary this data is none the less valuable; for 
what a people believe, even if untrue, has the same influence 
over their lives as if it were true. The North Arabians developed 
no system of writing until almost the time of Muhammad. The 
only three pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions thus far found 
(besides the proto-Arabic inscription of Imru*-al-Qays in al- 
Namarah, 328) are those of Zabad south-east of Aleppo (512), 
of r^arran in al-Laja (568) and umm-al-Jimal (same century). 

The term Arabians, as already explained, includes in its 
broad sense all the inhabitants of the peninsula. In its narrow 
sense it implies the North Arabians, who did not figure in inter- 
national affairs until the unfolding of the Islamic power. Like- 
wise the term Arabic signifies the rlimyarite-Sabaean as well as 
the northern dialect of al-Hijaz, but since the latter became the 
sacred language of Islam and utterly superseded the southern 
dialects of al-Yaman it became the Arabic par excellence. 
Therefore, when we speak after this of the Arabians and of 
Arabic we have particularly in mind the North Arabian people 
and the language of the Koran, 
The "days The Ayyam al-'Arab were intertribal hostilities generally 
Arab!™" arising from disputes over cattle, pasture-lands or springs. They 
afforded ample opportunity for plundering and raiding, for the 
manifestation of single-handed deeds of heroism by the cham- 
pions of the contending tribes and for the exchange of vitriolic 
satires on the part of the poets, the spokesmen of the warring 
parties. Though always ready for a fight the Bedouin was not 


lecessarily eager to be killed* His encounters, therefore, were 
lot as sanguinary as their accounts would lead one to believe. 
Nevertheless these Ayyam provided a safety valve for a possible 
Overpopulation in Bedouin land, whose inhabitants were norm- 
Jly in a condition of semi-starvation and to whom the fighting 
nood was a chronic state of mind. Through them vendetta 
jecameone of the strongest religio-social institutions in Bedouin 

» The course of events on each of these "days", as reported to us, 
bllows somewhat the same pattern. At first only a few men 
:ome to blows with one another in consequence of some border 
iispute or personal insult. The quarrel of the few then becomes 
he business of the whole. Peace is finally restored by the inter- 
vention of some neutral party. The tribe with the fewer casualties 
>ays its adversary blood money for the surplus of dead. Popular 
nemoty keeps the recollection of the heroes alive for centuries 
o come. 

s Such was the case of the Day of Bu'ath, 1 fought between the 
wo related tribes of al-Madlnah, the Aws and the Khazraj, some 
tars before the migration of the Prophet and his followers to 
hat town* The Days of al-Fijar (transgression), so called because 
hey fell in the holy months during which fighting was prohibited, 
vere fought between the Prophet's family, the Quraysh, and their 
allies the Kinanah on one side, and the Hawazin on the other. 
Muhammad as a young man is said to have participated in one 
>f the four combats. 3 

One of the earliest and most famous of these Bedouin wars was The 
he IJarb al-Basus, fought toward the end of the fifth century of 
rorera between the banu-Bakr 3 and their kinsmen the banu- 
Taghlib in north-eastern Arabia. Both tribes were Christianized 
md\ considered themselves descendants of Wa*iL The conflict 
trose over nothing more than a she-camel, the property of an 
»W woman of Bakr named Basus, which had been wounded 
>y a Taghiib chief. 4 According to the legendary history of the 
tyyam this war was carried on for forty years with reciprocal 
aiding and plundering, while its flames were fanned by poetical 

J vol. ii, p. 162. 

Hm-HfchSm, pp. 1 17*19; quoted by Yfiqut, vol. p. 570. 
* j iS*? ° f Dt y 5r - Bakr (Diarbekr) still bears the name of this tribe. 

vol »v f pp. 140-52; Abu.Tanjmam, ffamasak> pp. 420*23; m Itf % vol. ui, 




exhortations. The fratricidal struggle was brought to an end 
about 525 through the intercession of al-Mundhir III of al- 
Birah, but only after the exhaustion of both sides. The names of 
the leaders on the Taghlib side, Kulayb ibn-Rabfah and his 
brother, the hero-poet Muhalhil (f ca. A.D. 531), as well as the 
name of Jassas ibn-Murrah on the Bakr side, are still household 
words in all Arabic-speaking lands. This Muhalhil became the 
Zir of the still popular romance Qtssat al-Zir. 
Tb« Hardly less famous is the Day of Dahis and aI-Ghabra\the best 

D&^« f known event of the pagan period. This war was fought between 
the f Abs and its sister tribe Dhubyan in Central Arabia. Ghata- 
fan was the traditional ancestor of both. The occasion was the 
unfair conduct of the Dhubyanites in a race between a horse 
called Dahis belonging to the chieftain of *Abs and a mare 
named al-Ghabra owned by the sheikh of Dhubyan. The struggle 
broke out in the second half of the sixth century, not long after 
the conclusion of the Basus peace, and persisted at intervals for 
several decades into Islamic times. 1 It was in this war that 
'Antarah (or e Antar) ibn-Shaddad al- f Absi (ca. A.D. 525-615), 
the Achilles of the Arabian heroic age, distinguished himself as 
a poet and warrior. 
North No people in the world, perhaps, manifest such enthusiastic 
£ r ?te c admiration for literary expression and are so moved by the word, 
influence spoken or written, as the Arabs. Hardly any language seems 
language capable of exercising over the minds of its users such irresistible 
influence as Arabic. Modern audiences in Baghdad, Damascus 
and Cairo can be stirred to the highest degree by the recital of 
poems, only vaguely comprehended, and by the delivery of 
orations in the classical tongue, though it be only partially 
understood. The rhythm, the rhyme, the music, produce on them 
the effect of what they call "lawful magic" (siftr haldl). 

Typical Semites, the Arabians created or developed no great 
art of their own. Their artistic nature found expression through 
one medium: speech. If the Greek gloried primarily in his statues 
and architecture, the Arabian found in his ode (qasidah) and the 
Hebrew in his psalm, a finer mode of self-expression, "The 
beauty of man", declares an Arabic adage, "lies in the eloquence 
of his tongue." "Wisdom", in a late saying, "has alighted on three 
things: the brain of the Franks, the hands of the Chinese and the 
* Aghanii vol. ix, p. 150, vol. vii, p 150. 


tongue of the Arabs*" 1 Eloquence, i.e, ability to express one's 
self forcefully and elegantly in both prose and poetry, together 
with archery and horsemanship were considered in the Jahi- 
Hyah period the three basic attributes of "the perfect man" 
{al-kamit). By virtue of its peculiar structure Arabic lent itself 
admirably to a terse, trenchant, epigrammatic manner of speech. 
Islam made full use of this feature of the language and of this 
psychological peculiarity of its people. Hence the "miraculous 
character*' (fjas) of the style and composition of the Koran, 
adduced by Moslems as the strongest argument in favour of the 
genuineness of their faith. The triumph of Islam was to a certain 
extent the triumph of a language, more particularly of a book. 

From the heroic age of Arabic literature, covering the Jahi- The 
liyah period and extending from about A.D. 525 to 622, we have ^ 01C 
preserved for us a few proverbs, certain legends and in particular 
a fairly abundant amount of poetry — all compiled and edited in 
later Islamic days. No scientific literature existed beyond a few 
magical, meteorological and medicinal formulas. Proverbs con- 
stitute a fair index of folk mentality and experience. Luqrnan 
the Sage {al->hakhn) t in whose mouth many of the ancient words 
of wisdom were put, was either an Abyssinian or a Hebrew* 
Tradition has handed down the names of a number of wise men 
and women of the JahilTyah, e.g. Aktham ibn-Sayfi, rjajib ibn- 
Zurarah and Hind the daughter of al-Khuss. In the Majma aU 
Amthal hy al-Maydani* (f 11 24) and in the Amtltdl al-Arab 
of al-Mufaddal al-Dabbi 3 (f 786) we have many specimens of 
this pre-Islamie wisdom literature. 

Prose could not have been well represented in the JahiHyah 
literature since no system of writing had then been fully 
developed. Yet we have a few pieces, mainly legends and tradi- 
tions, composed in Islamic days, which purport to have come 
from earlier times. These stories deal mostly with genealogies 
{ahs£b) and the intertribal combats, the above-discussed Days of 
the Arabians. The Arabian genealogist, like his brother the 
Arabian historian, had a horror vatuiznd his fancy had no diffi- 
culty in bridging gaps and filling vacancies; in this way he has 
succeeded in giving us in most instances a continuous record 

* Cf k ai'J&td?, McjmiiGt Rcsail (Cairo, 1324), pp. 41-3; 'Zgd s Vol. i, p. 125. 

a vole. (Oiro, *3io); G. Frcytag, Arabum prcvtrbia (Bonn, i$38-43)< 
J 2 \ols. (C<mstantlni>plc, 1300); a]-Mufad<Jal Hm-Salamah (t ea. 920). «£ 
FdBir, «L a- A, Storey {I^en, 191$), 




from Adam or, in more modest compass, from Ishmael and 
Abraham. Ibn-Durayd's Kitab al-IshtiqSq 1 and the encyclo- 
pedic work of abu-al-Faraj al-Isbahani (or Isfahan!, f A.D. 967) 
entitled Kttdb al-Aghani (the book of songs) comprise most 
valuable data on the subject of genealogies. Specimens of rhymed 
prose attributed to pre-Islamic oracles have likewise survived. 

It was only in the field of poetical expression that the pre- 
Islamic Arabian excelled. Herein his finest talents found a field. 
The Bedouin's love of poetry was his one cultural asset. 

Arabic literature, like most literatures, sprang into existence 
with an outburst of poetry; but, unlike many others, its poetry 
seems to have issued forth full grown. The oldest pieces of poetry 
extant seem to have been composed some one hundred and 
thirty years before the Hijrah in connection with the War of 
al-Basus, but these odes, with their rigid conventions, presuppose 
a long period of development in the cultivation of the art of 
expression and the innate capacities of the language. The poets 
of the middle part of the sixth century have never been sur- 
passed. The early Moslem poets as well as the later and present- 
day versifiers regarded and still do regard the ancient produc- 
tions as models of unapproachable excellence. These early 
poems were committed to memory, transmitted by oral tradition 
and finally recorded in writing during the second and third 
centuries of the Hijrah. Modern critical research makes it 
evident that numerous revisions, editions and modifications 
were made to bring them into accord with the spirit of Islam 2 

The rhymed prose used by the oracles and soothsayers 
Qzuhhatt) may be considered the first stage in the development 
of the poetical form. The Koran exhibits such a style. The song 
of the camel-driver (Jtudd*) may have been the second. Native 
Arabic tradition which tries to explain the origin of poetry in the 
attempt of the cameleer to sing in time with the rhythmic move- 
ments of the carnePs pace may after all contain a germ of truth 
The word kadi t singer, is synonymous with sd*iq, camel-driver. 

Rajas, consisting of four or six feet to the line, evolved out 
of rhymed prose and constitutes the oldest and simplest metre. 
"It is the first-born child of poetry", so runs the Arabic defini- 
tion/'with rhymed prose [saj ] for a father and song for a mother/ 

1 Ed. F. WQsteafcld (Gfcttingen, 1854). 
» Cf. Taka tfusayn, al+Adcb cl-J&hxh (Cairo, 1927). AL-HtjAZ ON THE EVE OF THE RISE OP ISLAM 93 

In this heroic age of literature poetry was the only means of The 
literary expression. The qastdah (ode) represented the only, as |£* m 
well as a most finished, type of poetical composition. Muhalhil classical 
(t ca. 531), the Taghlib hero of the Basus War, is credited with pcnod 
being the first to compose these long poems. It is very likely that 
the ode developed in connection with the Days of the Arabians, 
particularly among the Taghlib or Kindah tribes. Imru*-al- 
Qays (f ca. $40), originally a Qahtani from South Arabia, 
belonged to ICindah. Though one of the most ancient of bards, 
he is generally esteemed the greatest, the amir (prince) of poets. 
'Amr ibn-Kulthum (f ca» 600), on the other hand, was a Tagh- 
hbite of the Rabi*ah from North Arabia. Though speaking 
different dialects these poets produced odes which exhibit the 
same literary form. 

Appearing with Homeric suddenness the qasidah surpasses 
even the Iliad and the Odyssey in metrical complexity and 
elaborateness. And when it makes its first appearance on the 
pages of history the qastdah seems governed by a fixed set of 
conventions: stereotyped beginning, common epithets, stock 
figures of speech and same choice of theme* — all of which 
point to a long period of development. Rich in animated passion, 
expressed in forceful and compact language, the ode is poor in 
originalideas, in thought-provoking imagery, and is consequently 
lacking in universal appeal. The poet and not the poetry is 
more often the thing to be admired. Translated mto a foreign 
y language it loses its value. The personal, subjective element 
prevails. The theme is realistic, the horizon limited, the point 
of view local. No national epic was ever developed by the 
Arabians and no dramatic work of first-class importance. 

Among the ancient odes the so-called "Seven Mu'allaqat" The 
(suspended) hold first place. They are still honoured throughout JJ^f " 
♦he Arabic-speaking world as masterpieces of poetical composi- 
tion. Legend has it that each of these odes was awarded the 
annual prize at the fair of 'Ukaz and was inscribed in golden 
letters and suspended on the walls of the Ka'bah. 1 Their genesis 
is explained in this way: at *Ukaz, between Nakhlah and al- 
TaMf in al-$ijaz, was held an annual fair, a sort of literary 
congress whither hero-poets resorted to celebrate their exploits 
and contend for the coveted first honour. A poet made a name 

* Al-SuyGfi, al-Mmkir {Cairo, 1282), voL «, p. 240. 




for himself here or nowhere. The Fair (su#) of *Ukaz stood in 
pre-Islamic days for a kind of Academic francaise of Arabia. 

The annual fair, we are told, was held during the sacred 
months when fighting was taboo. The pagan Arabian calendar 
was like the later Moslem one, lunar, the first thtee months 
of its spring season, i.e. dhu-al-Qa'dah, dhu-al-JJijjah and 
Muharram, coincided with the period of peace. The fair pro- 
vided ample opportunity for the exhibition of native wares, and 
for trade and exchange of commodities. We can easily visualize 
the sons of the desert flocking to these annual peaceful gather- 
ings, lingering around the booths, sipping date wine and enjoy- 
ing to the full the tunes of the singing girls. 

Though the first ode said to have won the favour of the judges 
of f Ukaz was that of Imru*~al-Qays (f ca. 540), no collection of 
the Mu*allaqat was attempted until the latter Umayyad period. 
I;Iammad al-Rawiyah, the famous rhapsodist who flourished in 
the middle of the eighth century, chose the Seven Golden Odes, 
undoubtedly from among many others, and compiled them into 
a separate group. This collection has been translated into most 
European languages. 1 
The pre Aside from the famous Seven Odes we have from pre-Islamic 
po« miC poetry a collection named, after its compiler, al-Mufaddal al- 
Dabbi (f ca, 785), al-Mufaddaliydt* containing one hundred 
and twenty odes composed by lesser lights, a number of diwdns 
(anthologies) and a large number of fragments and excerpts in 
the Diwan al-Hamdsah^ edited by abu-Tammam (f ca, 845) and 
in the Kitab al-Agham of al-Isbahani (f 967). 

The Arabian poet (skatr) t as the name indicates, was origin- 
ally one endowed with knowledge hidden from the common man, 
which knowledge he received from a demon, his special shay tan 
fsatan). As a poet he was in league with the unseen powers and 
could by his curses bring evil upon the enemy. Satire (htja) was 
therefore a very early form of Arabic poetry. 3 

As his office developed the poet acquired a variety of func- 
tions. In battle his tongue was as effective as his people's 
bravery. In peace he might prove a menace to public order by 
his fiery harangues. His poems might arouse a tribe to action in 

1 Sec William Jones, Works (London, 1799), vol iv, pp. 245-335* Anne and 
Wilfrid S. Blunt, The Seven Golden Odes 0/ Pagan Arabia (London, Z903). 
1 Ed C.J. Lyall, 3 vols (Oxford & Leydcn, 1921-4). 
* Balaam was a type of primitive Arabian satirist (Num. 23 : 7). 

at vit aLhijAz on the eve of the RISE OF ISLAM 9S 

1 the same manner as the tirade of a demagogue in a modern 
political campaign. As the press agent, the journalist, of his 
day his favour was sought by princely gifts, as the records of the 
courts of aKrlirah and Ghassan show. His poems, committed 
to memory and transmitted from one tongue to another, offered 
an invaluable means of publicity. He was both moulder and 
agent of public opinion. Qaf al-lisdn (cutting off the tongue) was 
the formula used for subsidizing him and avoiding his satires. 

Besides being oracle, guide, orator and spokesman of his 
community the poet was its historian and scientist, in so far 
as it had a scientist. Bedouins measured intelligence by poetry. 
"Who dares dispute my tribe ... its pre-eminence in horsemen, 
poets and numbers?" exclaims a bard in al-Aghani} In these 
three elements, military power, intelligence and numbers, lay 
the superiority of a tribe. As the historian and scientist of the 
tribe the poet was well versed in its genealogy and folklore, 
cognizant of the attainments and past achievements of its mem- 
bers, familiar with their rights, pasture-lands and border-lines. 
Furthermore, as a student of the psychological weaknesses and 
historical failures of the rival tribes it was his business to expose 
these shortcomings and hold them up to ridicule. 

Aside from its poetic interest and the worth of its grace and 
.elegance, the ancient poetry, therefore, has historical import- 
ance as source material for the study of the period in which it 
was composed. In fact it is our only quasi-contemporaneous data. 
It throws light on all phases of pre-Islamic life. Hence the adage, 
"Poetry is the public register [dtwdn] of the Arabians". a 

The ideal of Arab virtue as revealed by this ancient pagan 
poetry was expressed in the terms muruak> manliness (later Bedouin 
virttts), and Hrd (honour). 5 The component elements of murtVak 
were courage, loyalty and generosity. Courage was measured by foted m 
the number of raids (sing, ghazw) undertaken* Generosity mani- poetry 
fested itself in his readiness to sacrifice his camel at the coming 
of a guest or on behalf of the poor and the helpless. 

The name of IJatim aUTa i (f ca. A.D. 605) has been handed 
down to the present day as the personification of the Bedouin 
ideal of hospitality* As a lad in charge of his father's camels he 

VoL vih, p, 77. * Muthir, vol. ii, p. 235. 

On nuru'ah and Vr& see articles by Bxshr Fares in Encyclopedia of fslcm, 




once slaughtered three of the animals to feed passing strangers 
and distributed the rest among them, which caused his father 
to expel him from home. 1 

The name of 'Antarah ibn-Shaddad al-'Absi (ca. 525-615), 
evidently a Christian, has lived through the ages as the paragon 
of Bedouin heroism and chivalry. Knight, poet, warrior and lover, 
'Antarah exemplified in his life those traits greatly esteemed 
by the sons of the desert. His deeds of valour as well as his love 
episodes with his lady, 'Ablah, whose name he immortalized in 
his famous Mu'allaqah, have become a part of the literary 
heritage of the Arabic-speaking world. But 'Antarah was born 
a slave, the son of a black maid. He was, however, freed by his 
father on the occasion of an encounter with an enemy tribe in 
which the young man refused to take active part, saying, "A 
slave knows not how to fight; milking camels is his job". 
"Charger* shouted his father, "thou art free." 5 

Judged by his poetry the pagan Bedouin of the Jahillyah age 
had little if any religion. To spiritual impulses he was lukewarm, 
even indifferent. His conformity to religious practice followed 
tribal inertia and was dictated by his conservative respect for 
tradition. Nowhere do we find an illustration of genuine devotion 
to a heathen deity. A story told about Imru'-al-Qays illustrates 
this point. Having set out to avenge the murder of his father 
he stopped at the temple of dhu-al~Khalasah 3 to consult the 
oracle by means of drawing arrows. 4 Upon drawing "abandon" 
thrice he hurled the broken arrows at the idol exclaiming, 
"Accursed one! had it been thy father who was murdered thou 
wouldst not have forbidden my avenging him". 6 

Other than the poetical references, our chief sources of in- 
formation about pre-Islamic heathenism are to be found in the 
remains of paganism in Islam, in the few anecdotes and tradi- 
tions embedded in the late Islamic literature and in al-Kalbi's 
(f 819-20) al-A$ndm (the idols). The pagan Arabian developed 
no mythology, no involved theology and no cosmogony com- 
parable to that of the Babylonians, 

1 Ibn*Qutaybah, al~Sh\r xv-al'Shuarf, ed. de Goeje (Lcyden, X904), p. 124. 

* Agkdnii vol. vii, pp. 149-50; ibn-Qutaybah, p. J30. 

* The tcmpJe stood seven days' journey south of Makkah; its deity was a white 
stone; al-Kalbi, al-Afn&m, ed. Ahmad Zaki (Cairo, 1914), p. 34- 

* See below, p. xoo. Divining by arrows forbidden in Koran 5 : 4, 92. 

* Agh&ni, vol. viii, p. 70. 


The Bedouin religion represents the earliest and most primi- 
tive form of Semitic belief. The South Arabian cults with their 
astral features, ornate temples, elaborate ritual and sacrifices 
represent a higher and later stage of development, a stage reached 
by sedentary society. The emphasis on sun-worship in the 
cultured communities of Petra and Palmyra implies an agricul- 
tural state where the association has already been made between 
the life-giving rays of the sun and the growth of vegetation. 

The Bedouin's religion, like other forms of primitive belief, 
is basically animistic. The striking contrast between oasis and 
desert gave him perhaps his earliest definite conception of the 
specialized deity. The spirit of the arable land became the 
beneficent deity to be catered to; that of the arid land the male* 
ficent* the demon, to be feared. 1 

Even after the conception of a deity was formed, natural 
objects such as trees, wells, caves, stones, remained sacred 
objects, since they formed the media through which the wor- 
shipper could come into direct contact with the deity. The well in 
the desert with its cleansing, healing, life-giving water very early 
became an object of worship. Zamzam's holiness, according to 
Arabian authors, was pre-Islamic and went back to the time 
when it supplied water to Hagar and IshmaeL 2 Yaqut, 8 and after 
him al-Qafcwini,* speak of travellers carrying away water from 
the Well of 'Urwah and offering it as a special present to their 
relatives and friends. Caves became holy through association 
cvith underground deities and forces. Such was originally Ghab- 
ghab in Nakhlah, where the Arabians sacrificed to al-*Uzza. 6 
BaV represented the spirit of springs and underground water 
and must have been introduced into Arabia at the same time as 
the palm tree. The word left an interesting survival in the 
Moslem system of taxation, where a distinction is drawn between 
what Ba r I waters (i,e. land that needs no irrigation) and what 
the sky waters, 

;,'sThe Bedouin's astral beliefs centred upon the moon, in whose Solar 
Sight he grazed his flocks. Moon-worship implies a pastoral wpcct3 
si^fetyi- whereas sun-worship represents a later agricultural 
stagey In our own day the Moslem Ruwalah Bedouins imagine 
\ '* At. taftrd, piety^is from a stem meaning: "to be on one's guard, to fear*'. 
- * Ibn-Hisbam, Sirak, p. 71. * Vol. 1, p. 434, 

* fjfft chMckhtiigei, cd. F. Wustcnfeld (Gottingen, 1849), p. 200. 
* 1 Raibi, pp. 18, 20; VSqGt, voL its, pp."7?2-3, 

9 3 



that their life is regulated by the moon, which condenses the 
water vapours, distils the beneficent dew on the pasture and 
makes possible the growth of plants. On the other hand the sun, 
as they believe, would like to destroy the Bedouins as well as all 
animal and plant life. 

One characteristic feature of all elements of religious belief is 
their tendency to persist in some form when a higher stage of 
development has been attained. The survival represents a com- 
promise between these two stages of religious development. 
Hence Wadd (Koran 71 : 22), the moon-god who stood at the 
head of the Minaean pantheon. Ibn-Hisham 1 and al-Tabari* 
speak of a sacred palm tree in Najran. Gifts were offered to the 
tree in the form of weapons, garments and rags which were 
suspended from it. Dhat-Anwat 3 (that on which things are 
hung), to which the Makkans resorted annually, was perhaps 
identical with the tree of al-*Uzza at Nakhlah. 4 Al-Lat in 
al-Ta'if was represented by a square stone, 5 and dhu-al-Shara 
in Petra by a quadrangular block of unhewn black stone four 
feet high and two feet wide. Most of these deities owned each a 
reserved grazing-land (fttma). 
jinn The Bedouin peopled the desert with living things of beastly 

nature called jinn or demons. These jinn differ from the gods not 
so much in their nature as in their relation to man. The gods are 
on the whole friendly; the jinn, hostile. The latter are, of course, 
personifications of the fantastic notions of the terrors of the 
desert and its wild animal life. To the gods belong the regions 
frequented by man; to the jinn belong the unknown and un- 
trodden parts of the wilderness. A madman (jnajnwi) is but one 
possessed by the jinn. With Islam the number of jinn was 
increased, since the heathen deities were then degraded into such 
beings. 8 

The Among the urban population of al-fjijaz, and only about 

ff 'aiuiT sevcnteen P er cent * °f *ke population was such, the astral stage 
of paganism was reached early. Al-*Uzza, al-Lat and Manah, 
the three daughters of Allah, had their sanctuaries in the land 
which later became the cradle of Islam. In a weak moment the 
monotheistic Muhammad was tempted 7 to recognize thesepower- 

* Sirah, p 22. 8 Vol. i, p 922. « Sfrah, p. 844. 

* Kalbi, pp. 24-7 • Ibtd. p t6. * Koran 37 ; 15s, 6 : 100. 

? Cf. Koran 22 : 51-2, 17 : 74*& 

CH, YH AL-HIJAZ ON TH& JbVii, Ut ltt& Ki^ii UJf ii>i,Aivx 99 

ful deities of Makkah and al-Madinah and make a compromise 
ia their favour, but afterwards he retracted and the revelation 
is said to have received the form now found in surah 53 : 19-20. 1 
Later theologians explained the case according to the principle 
of ptisikk and inanstlkk, abrogating and abrogated verses, by 
means of which God revokes and alters the announcements of 
His will; this results in the cancellation of a verse and the sub- 
stitution of another for it (Koran 2 : 100). Al-Lat (from al- 
Ilahah, the goddess) had her sacred tracts {hima and haravi) 
near al-Ta'if, whither the Makkans and others flocked for 
pilgrimage and sacrifice. Within such an enclosure no trees could 
be felled j no game hunted and no human blood shed. Animal 
and plant life therein partook of the inviolability of the deity 
there honoured. Of similar origin were the cities of refuge in 
Israel. Herodotus 2 mentions this goddess under the name Alilat 
among the Nabataean deities. 

^Al-'Uzza (the most mighty, Venus, the morning star) had her 
cult in Nakhlah east of Makkah. According to al-Kalbi, 3 hers 
was the most venerated idol among the Quraysh, and Muham- 
mad as a young man offered her a sacrifice. Her sanctuary con- 
sisted of three trees. Human sacrifice characterized her cult, She 
was the Lady *U2zay-an to whom a South Arabian offered a 
golden image on behalf of his sick daughter, Amat~*Uzzay-an* 
(the maid of al-*Uzza). \Abd-al-*Uzza was a favourite proper 
name at the rise of Islam. 

Manah^from manlyah % allotted fate) was the goddess of 
destiny $ , and as such represented an earlier phase of religious 
life.* Her main sanctuary consisted of a black stone in Qudayd 
on the road between Makkah and Yathrib (later al-Madlnah) 
and she was especially popular with the Aws and the Khazraj, 
„who rallied to the support of the Prophet on his fateful Hijrah 
from Makkah. As an independent deity her name, associated 
with, dhu-al-Shara, appears in the Nabataean inscriptions of 
^1-fjijrJ -To the present day Arabic versifiers blame all mis- 
fortunes on ahmanaya or aUdahr (time). 

Cwfce, pp. 2ir t 2*9; lidsbtofci, Bpktmerzs, vol. iii, 1909-15 (Giesscn, 




Since the mother's blood rather than the father's formed the 
original bond of kinship among the Semites and because the 
family organization was first matriarchal, the Arabian goddess 
preceded the god as an object of worship. 

Hubal (from Aram, for vapour, spirit), evidently the chief 
deity of al-Ka'bah, was represented in human form. Beside him 
stood ritual arrows used for divination by the soothsayer (kdhin, 
from Aramaic) who drew lots by means of them. The tradition 
in ibn-Hisham, 1 which makes "Amr ibn-Luhayy the importer 
of this idol from Moab or Mesopotamia, may have a kernel of 
truth in so far as it retains a memory of the Aramaic origin of the 
deity. £ At the conquest of Makkah by Muhammad Hubal shared 
the lot of the other idols and was destroyed. 

The pagan Ka'bah, which became the Palladium of Islam, was 
an unpretentious cube-like (hence the name) building of primi- 
tive simplicity, originally roofless, serving as a shelter for a black 
meteorite which was venerated as a fetish. At the birth of Islam 
the structure was that rebuilt in 608 probably by an Abyssinian 
from the wreckage of a Byzantine or Abyssinian ship destroyed 
on the shore of the Red Sea. 3 The usual sacred territory (/taram) 
spread around it. Annual pilgrimages were made thither and 
special sacrifices offered. 

Moslem tradition maintains that the Ka'bah was originally 
built by Adam according to a celestial prototype and after the 
Deluge rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael.* Its custody remained 
in the hands of the descendants of Ishmael until the proud 
banu-Jurhum, and later the banu-Khuza'ah,who introduced idol 
worship, took possession of it. Then came the Quraysh, who 
continued the ancient Ishmael ite line. While engaged in the 
rebuilding Ishmael received from Gabriel the Black Stone, still 
set in the south-east corner of the structure, and was instructed 
in the ceremonies of the pilgrimage {hajj). 

Allah (allah, al-ildl^ the god) was the principal, though not the 
only, deity of Makkah. The name is an ancient one. It occurs in 
two South Arabic inscriptions, one a Minaean found at al-'Ula 
and the other a Sabaean, but abounds in the form HLH in the 
Lihyanite inscriptions of the fifth century B.C. 5 Libyan, which 

1 Sir ah y pp. 50 stq ♦ 

* The Arabic word for idol, fanan, is clearly an adaptation of Aramaic fiUrt* 

* Cf. al-Azraqi, AkhbSr Makkah, ed. Wustcnfeld (Leipzig, 1858), pp. 104-7; 
Va'qubi, Tarfflt, vol. ii, pp. 17- 1 8. * Koran 2 : x 18-21. * Winnett, p. 3a 


evidently got the god from Syria, was the first centre of the 
worship of this deity in Arabia. The name occurs as Hallah in 
the Safa inscriptions five centuries before Islam * and also in a 
pre-Islamic Christian Arabic inscription found in umm-al-Jimal, 
Syria, and ascribed to the sixth century. 2 The name of Muham- 
mad's father was *Abd-AHah ('Abdullah, the slave or wor- 
shipper of Allah). The esteem in which Allah was held by the 

from Ah Bey, "Tratth ' 


pre-Islamic Makkans as the creator and supreme provider and 
the one to be invoked in time of special peril may be inferred 
from such koranic passages as 31 : 24, 31; 6 : 137, 109; 10 ; 23. 
Evidently he was the tribal deity of the Quraysh. 

Though in an inhospitable and barren valley with an inclement 
and unhealthy climate this sanctuary at Makkah made al-I^ijaz 
the most important religious centre in North Arabia. 

Other pagan deities such as Nasr a (vulture), *Awf (the great 
bird) bear animal names and suggest totemic origin. As for 
future life, nowhere in the authenticated ancient literature do 
we find expressed a clear and precise idea of it. The few vague 

1 Dussaud, Us Arches m Syrit, pp. 141*2. 

* "E™0 litttnann, Zettschrift fur Semitistik und vcrwandte Gcbtete, vol. vii 
Pi>- 197-204. * Koran 71 : 23. 




references may be explained as an echo of Christian dogma. 
The hedonistic Arabian character was too much absorbed in the 
immediate issues of life to devote much thought to the here- 
after. In the words of an old bard: 

We spm about and whirl our way through life, 
Then, rich and poor alike, at last seek rest 

Below the ground m hollow pits slate-covered; 
And there we do abide 1 

As the Bedouins frequented the settled towns of al-rjijaz for 
the exchange of their commodities, and particularly during the 
four months of "holy truce", they became inoculated with some 
of the more advanced urban beliefs and were initiated into 
ritualistic practices of the Ka'bah and the offering of sacrifices. 
Camels and sheep were offered at Makkah and at various stones 
(ansdb) elsewhere which were regarded as idols or altars. In the 
pilgrimage to some great shrine of the urban Arabians lay the 
most important religious practice of the nomad. The "holy 
truce" included what became in the Moslem calendar the 
eleventh, twelfth and first months of each year (dhu-al-Qa'dah, 
dhu~al-yijjah and Muharram) together with a fourth month 
in the middle (Rajab). The first three were especially set aside 
for religious observance, and the fourth for trade. Al-rjijaz, 
through its somewhat central position, its accessibility and its 
location on the main caravan route running north and south, 
offered an unexcelled opportunity for both religious and com- 
mercial activity. Thus arose its *Ukaz fair and its Ka'bah. 
Thethre* Al-rjijaz, the barren country standing like a barrier (Jtijaz) 
Tl^Hij-iz k et wcen the uplands of Najd and the low coastal region called 
al-TaV Tihamah (netherland), could boast only three cities: al-Ta if and 
the two sister cities Makkah and al-Madinah. 

Al-fa*if, nestling among shady trees at an altitude of about 
6000 feet and described as "a bit of Syrian earth", was, as it 
still is, the summer resort of the Makkan aristocracy. Burck- 
hardt, who visited the town in August 1 8 14, declared the 
scenery en route the most picturesque and delightful he had 
seen since his departure from Lebanon. 2 Its products included 
honey, water-melons, bananas, figs, grapes, almonds, peaches 

1 Abu-Tamxnam, p 562, cf Lyall, Translations, p, xxvu 
* John L. Burckhardt, Travels tn Arabia (London, 1829), vol. i, p. 122. 


and pomegranates. 1 Its roses were 'famous For the attar which 
provided Makkah with its perfumery. Its vines, according to a 
tradition handed down in al-Aghani? were introduced by a 
Jewess who offered the first slips as a present to a local chief. Its 
wine, though in great demand, was less expensive than the foreign 

Fr#nt IbrJhln Jiif at* "Jffr'jtf at- {foramen" 


brand celebrated in Arabic poetry. Of all places in the peninsula 
aKTa if came nearest to the koranic description of Paradise in 
surah 47 : 16-17. 

The name Makkah, the Macoraba of Ptolemy, 3 comes from Matkah 
Sabaean Makuraba, meaning sanctuary, which indicates that h 
owes its foundation to some religious association and therefore 
must have been a religious centre long before Muhammad was 
born. It lies in the Tihamah of southern al-lfUjaz, about forty- 
eight miles from the Red Sea, in a barren, rocky valley described 
in the Koran (14 : 40} as "unfit for cultivation". The thermo- 

/< 1 Cf, ibn-BaftfiJah, Tuft/at <?/-iWsf?f<£r, c& and tr. C. Defr&nery and B. R. 

'\S«igmttttt5, 3rd impressiofc, vol, i (Paris, 1S93), pp. 304-5. 

^ * * -Vt&W, p/75j 11 * Ceo^r<tphia t «L Nobbe, Bk, VI, du 7, § 32. 




meter in Makkah can register almost unbearable heat. When 
the famous Arab traveller ibn-Battutah 1 of Tangier attempted 
the circumambulation of the Ka'bah barefooted, he failed 
because of the "flames" reflected by the stones. 

Older still than the south-to-north "spice road" which passes 
through it, the city early became a midway station between 
MaVib and Ghazzah. The commercially minded and progressive 
Makkans soon rendered their city a centre of wealth. A Makkan 
caravan which was involved in the Badr skirmish (Mar. 16, 624) 
while returning from Ghazzah consisted of a thousand camels, 
according to al-Waqidi, 3 and carried merchandise worth 50,000 
dinars (about £20,000). Under the leadership of the Quraysh, 
the custodians of the Ka'bah, who were evidently responsible 
for making that sanctuary a national shrine and the 'Ukaz fair 
a commercial and intellectual rendezvous, Makkah's pre-emin- 
ence became secure. 
ai- Yathrib (YTHRB of the Sabaean inscriptions, Jathrippa of 

M«dm*h Ptolemy), 5 lay some 300 miles north of Makkah and was much 
more favoured by nature than its southern sister. Besides lying 
on the "spice road", which connected al-Yaman with Syria, the 
city was a veritable oasis, especially adapted for the cultivation 
of date-palms. In the hands of its Jewish inhabitants, the banu- 
Na^Ir and banu-Qurayzah, the town became a leading agricul- 
tural centre. Judging by their proper names and the Aramaean 
vocabulary used in their agricultural life these Jews must have 
been mostly Judaized clans of Arabian* and Aramaean stock, 
though the nucleus may have been Israelites who fled from 
Palestine at the time of its conquest by the Romans in the first 
century after Christ. It was possibly these Aramaic-speaking 
Jews who changed the name Yathrib into Aramaic Medinta, 
the explanation of the name al-Madinah (Medina) as "the 
town" (of the Prophet) being a comparatively late one. The two 
leading non-Jewish tribes were the Aws and the Khazraj, who 
came originally from al-Yaman. 
Cultural Though not in the main stream of world events, pre-Islarnic 
influence* a ^yjj^ z cou \d hardly be said to have been in a backwater. Its 
tfij** t exclusiveness is post-Muhammadan and dates from the eighth 

f * Sabft « Vol. i, p. 2S1. 

1 AI-Maghazty cd, Alfred von Krcmer (Calcutta, 1855-6), p> 198. 

* Bk, VI, ch. 7, § 3*; variant Lathnppa. 

* Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. 49, designate* the Arabian tribes from which they descended. 


year of the Hijrah, when Makkah was captured and the twenty- 
eighth verse of surah nine revealed. 1 In the first century after 
Muhammad, however, there flourished in his birthplace a num- 
ber of Christian and Jewish physicians, musicians and merchants* 

The earlier South Arabian civilization could not have alto- 
gether passed away without leaving some trace in its northern 
successor. The 'inscription (542-3) of Abrahah dealing with the 
break of the Ma'rib Dam begins with the following words: 
"In the power and grace and mercy of the Merciful [Rak- 
man-an] and His Messiah and of the Holy Spirit". 2 The word 
Rahman-an is especially significant because its northern equi- 
valent, al-Rahmdn % became later a prominent attribute of Allah 
and one of His names in the Koran and in Islamic theology. 
Surah nineteen is dominated by al-Rahmdn? Though used in 
the inscription for the Christian God, yet the word is evidently 
borrowed from the name of one of the older South Arabian 
deities* Al-Rakzm (the compassionate) also occurs as the name 
of a deity (RHM) in pre-Islamic and Sabaean inscriptions. 4 
Another South Arabic inscription uses s/tirk, association in the 
sense of polytheism, the kind of shirk against which Muham- 
mad vehemently and fervently preached and which consisted 
of the worship of one supreme being with whom other minor 
deities were associated. In the same inscription occurs the 
technical term denoting unbelief, KFK, as in North Arabic. 5 

The Semitic population of the south-western coast of the Red 3. 
Sea found its way thither, as we have learned, by gradual in- s " 
filtration from south-western Arabia. These Abyssinians, as they 
were later called, formed an important part of the great inter- 
national commercial "trust", which under Sabaeo-Himyaritc 
leadership monopolized the ancient spice trade, the main artery 
of which passed through al-Hijaz. For about fifty years prior to 
the birth of the Prophet, the Abyssinians had their rule estab- 
lished in al-Yaman, and in the year of his birth we find them 
at the gates of Makkah threatening its precious Ka'bah with 

" 1 See below, p. 11S; cf. Bayijawi, vol. i, p. 383; Tabari, Tefsir, vol. x, p. 74. 

£. Glaser, Mtttctlztr.gen dcr vsrdtrastatischtn Gtselisehaft (Berlin, 1897), 
PP^B^ 401 \ cf. Corpus inscriptionum Semittcarttm, pars iv, t. i, pp. 15-19. 
x j KaAmanSn appears as title of the Christian God in a fifth-centurv South Arabic 

4 Dussaad and Macler, Voyage crchiehgiqtte, p. 95, h ro; Dussaud, Arabes, 

? *, *!' ^ordlmann and I>, H. Muller in JVhtser Zetisehnfi fur die Kundt del 
f MC&ttfondtSt \ot X (1896), pp. 285-05. " * 




destruction. Makkah itself was the abode of an Abyssinian, 
presumably Christian, colony. Bilai, 1 whose stentorian voice 
won him the unique distinction of becoming the Prophet's 
muezzin, was an Abyssinian negro. The koranic references to , 
the sea and its tempests (surahs 1 6 : 14, 10 ; 23-4, 24 : 40), which 
are characterized by unusual clarity and vividness, are an echo 
of the active maritime intercourse between al-rjijaz and Abys- 
sinia. When the infant Moslem community was hard pressed by 
the pagan Quraysh it was to Abyssinia of all lands that they 
turned for refuge.* 
n Persia In the century preceding the establishment of Islam, Zoroas- 
trian Persia was contesting with Abyssinia for supremacy over 
al-Yaman. Knowledge of the military art of Persia was passing 
into Arabian possession from the south and also from the north 
through Persian Arabia, with its capital al-rjlrah. Tradition 
relates that it was Salman the Persian who taught the Prophet 
how to dig a trench for the defence of al-Madlnah. 5 

Al-ft Irah, the Arab satellite of Persia, was the main channel 
through which not only Persian cultural influences but, later, 
Aramaean Nestorian influences percolated into the Arabia of 
pre-Muhammadan days. As these Nestorians formed later the 
main link between Hellenism and nascent Islam, so now they 
acted as a medium for transmitting northern cultural ideas, 
Aramaic, Persian and Hellenic, into the heart of pagan Arabia. 
4.Ghas- Just such an influence as the Nestorians of al-rjirah had on 
saoiand ^ c Arabs of the Persian border was exerted by the Mono- 
physites of Ghassanland upon the people of al-rlijaz. For four 
centuries prior to Islam these Syrian ized Arabs had been bring- 
ing the Arab world into touch not only with Syria but also with 
Byzantium. Such personal names as Dawud (David), Sulay- 
man (Solomon), *Isa (Jesus), were not uncommon among the 
pre- Islamic Arabians, 

1 His tomb is still standing in Damascus. 

* Such Ar. -words of Ethiopic origin as burkan (proof)» fun&8riy£n (Christ's 
disciples), jahannam (hell, originally Heb,), ma'tdak (table), match (angel, 
originally Heb.), mihrab (niche), mtnbar (pulpit), ir.tishaf (holy book), shay tan 
(Satan), point to Christian Abyssinian influence over Moslem Hijaz. Al-5uyuji 
cites in ch, 38 of his al-Itgdn (Cairo, 1925), vol. i, pp. 135-41, u8 foreign wordis in 
the Koran. 

* See below, p 117. Ar. firind (sword), firdaivs (Paradise, sur. 18 : 1 07; 23 : 11), 
tijjti (stone, sur. 105 : 4), barzakh (obstacle, sur. 23 : 102; 55 : 20, 25 : 55), xanjaBU 
(ginger, sur. 56 : 17, see below, p. 667), etc., are of Persian derivation. 


, Thisnorthern influence, however, should not be over-estimated, 
for neither the Monophysite nor the Nestorian church had 
enough vitality to make its religious ideas contagious* The 
material collected by Pere Cheikho 1 does not suffice to show that 
Christianity had struck deep root anywhere in North Arabia, 
yet it reveals many pre-Islamic poets as familiar with certain 
floating Christian ideas and Christian terms. A considerable 
number of Aramaic words passed into the ancient Arabic 
vocabulary* 2 

The monotheism affecting Arabia was not entirely of thes- 
Christian type, Jewish colonies flourished xn al-Madinah and Jc 
various oases of northern a!-£Ijja2 4 3 Ai-Jumahi (f 845) devotes 
a section of his biographies 4 to the Jewish poets of al-Madinah 
and its environs* Al-Agk3ni cites a number of Jewish poets of 
Arabia, But the only supposedly Jewish poet who left us a 
dtwan was al-Sarnaw'al (Samuel), 8 of al-Ablaq near Tayma*, a 
contemporary of Imru'-al-Qays, His poetry, however, has nothing 
to differentiate it from the current heathen type, and therefore 
al-Samaw'aTs Judaism has been rightly suspected. In al-Yaman 
Judaism is supposed to have attained the dignity of a state 
religion under the aegis of dhu-Nuwas. 

In summing up it may be safely stated that al-IJijaz in the 
Century preceding the mission of Muhammad was ringed about 
with influences, intellectual, religious and material, radiating 
from Byzantine, Syrian (Aramaean), Persian and Abyssinian 
centres and conducted mainly through Ghassanid, Lakhmid and 
Yamanite channels; but it cannot be asserted that al~yijaz was 
in such vital contact with the higher civilization of the north as 
to transform its native cultural aspect. Then too, although 
Christianity did find a footing in Najran, and Judaism in al- 
Yaman and al-IJijaz, neither seems to have left much of an 
impression on the North Arabian mind. Nevertheless the anti- 

5 MMtfrtnfyaA wa-Ad^uAa, 2 pts. (Beirut, 1912, 1919, 1923), Shtfard* 
al-Nap-artyaJi, 2 \ols. (Beirut, lSc^o) 

* KanUah and Inch (church), dumyah and furah (image, picture), qtssis (monk), 

(alms), naiur (watchman), nir (> aU)Jcdddn (acre), qwdil (lamp, origin- 
ally Utfxvicandtld) are illustrations Latin castrum gave Synac fasjrtt and Western 
Aramaic qapa from which Arabic ga?r (castle, palace) came and was re introduced 
into Europe in the form of Italian castero, Spanish ulcdza*. 

1 Jtbri! (Gabnel), s&rak (relation, chapter), jabber (most powerful), illustrate 
Hebrew words in the Arabic vocabulary* 

* T&aqU eAfAiiW, e<L J> Hell (Le>den, 1916), pp. 70 74. 
mttin oi-Samitw'a/, 2nd ed., ed. Cheikho (Beirut, 1920), 



quated paganism of the peninsula seems to have reached the 
point where it failed any longer to meet the spiritual demands 
of the people and was outgrown by a dissatisfied group who 
developed vague monotheistic ideas and went by the name of 
y anifs. 1 Umayyah ibn-abi-al-Salt (f 624), through his mother 
a second cousin of the Prophet, and Waraqah ibn-Nawfal, a 
cousin of Khadljah, were such FJanifs, though several sources 
make Waraqah a Christian. On the political side the organized 
national life developed in early South Arabia was now utterly 
disrupted. Anarchy prevailed in the political realm as it did in 
the religious. The stage was set, the moment was psychological, 
for the rise of a great religious and national leader. 

1 Loan-word from Aramaic through Nabataean; N. A. Fans and H. W. Glidden, 
Journal oftke Palestine Oriental Society vol* adx (1939), pp. 1*13; cf. Arthur Jeffery, 
The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qurdn (Baroda, 1938), pp. 112-15. Further archajo- 
Iogical and linguistic research will probably confirm the importance of the influence 
qf Nabataean culture not only on Islam but also on early Christianity. 

paut n 



IK or about A.D. $71 a child was born to the Quraysh at 
Makkah and was given by his mother a name which may 
remain for ever uncertain. His tribe called him al-Amm l (the 
faithful), apparently an honorific title. The form which his 
name takes in the Koran (3 : 138, 33 : 4°. 4» : 29, 47 • 2) is * 
Mubammad * and once (61 : 6) Ahmad. In popular usage he is 
Muhammad (highly praised)— a name borne by more male 
children than anyother. Thebaby's father, 'Abdullah, died before 
his birth; the mother, Aminah, when he was about six years old. 
It therefore felt to the lot of his grandfather, f Abd-al-Muttalib, 
to bring up the boy, and after the grandfather's death the duty 
devolved upon his paternal uncle abu-TSlib. 

■s 'Abd-Sharas Hashim 
Uraayyah ^Abd-al-Muftalib 

Al-'Abbas 'Abdullah AbuT&Hb 

When twelve years old, it is related, Muhammad accompanied 
his uncle and patron abu-Talib or * a caravan journey to Syria, 
in the course of which he met a Christian monk to whom legend 
has given the name Bahira. * 

"Though the only one of the world prophets to be born within 
thb Ml light of history, Muhammad is but little known to us in 

" - x Ibn-Hisbam, Strch t p, 125; Ya'qttW, vol. xi, p. 18; Mas'udi, voLiv, p. 

* Hame occurs in -a South Arabioinscriptioa, Ccrjtus inscrtpttonum Scmtftcorum t 
pars W, t. il ? p: 104. 

r - in 



his early life: of his struggle for a livelihood, his efforts towards 
self-fulfilment and his gradual and painful realization of the 
great task awaiting him we have but few reliable reports. The 
first record of his life was undertaken by ibn-Ishaq, who died 
in Baghdad about A.H. 150 (767) and whose biography of the 
Prophet has been preserved only in the later recension of ibn- 
Hisham, who died in Egypt about A.H. 218 (833). Other than 
Arabic sources for the life of the Prophet and the early period 
of nascent Islam we have none. The first Byzantine chronicler 
to record some facts about ,f the ruler of the Saracens and the 
pseudo-prophet" was Theophanis 1 in the early part of the ninth 
century. The first reference to Muhammad in Syriac occurs in a 
seventh century work. 8 

With his marriage at the age of twenty-five to the wealthy and 
high-minded widow Khadijah, fifteen years his senior, Muham- 
mad steps upon the threshold of clear history. Khadijah was a 
Qurayshite and, as a well-to-do merchant's widow, was conduct- 
ing business independently and had taken young Muhammad 
into her employ. As long as this lady with her strong personality 
and noble character lived, Muhammad would have none other 
for a wife. 

The competence which now entered into the economic life of 
Muhammad, and to which there is a clear koranic* reference, 
gave him leisure and enabled him to pursue his own inclinations. 
He was then often noticed secluding himself and engaging in 
meditation within a little cave (ghdr) on a hill outside of Makkah 
called HiraV It was in the course of one of these periods of 
distraction caused by doubts and yearning after the truth that 
Muhammad heard in Ghar rjira* a voice 6 commanding: "Recite 
thou in the name of thy Lord who created", etc.* This -was his 
first revelation. The Prophet had received his call. The night 
of that day was later named "the Night of Power" (Jaylat aU 
qadrf and fixed towards the end of Ramadan (610). When after 
a brief interval (fatrak), following his call to the prophetic office, 
the second vision came, Muhammad, under the stress of great 

1 Ckronograpkra, cd Carolus de Boor (Leipzig, 1885), p. 333 

* A Mingana, Sources syrtaques vol u Bar*penkayi (Leipzig, 190$), p 146 (text) 
*=p 175 (tr ) 5 Sarah 93 : 6*9 

* See Ibrahim Kifat, Mir at al-flaranayn (Cairo, 1925), vol. 1. pp 56 60 

* Al-Bukhari, $ahlh (Bulaq, 1296), vol i, p 3 

9 Koran 96 . 1-5 Koran 97 : 1 



emotion, rushed home in alarm and asked his wife to put some 
covers on him, whereupon these words "descended": ,c O thou, 
enwrapped in thy mantle! Arise and warn". 1 The voices varied 
and sometimes-came like the ''reverberating of bells" (satealat 
al-Jaras)* but later, in the Madinese surahs, became one voice, 
identified as that of Jibnl (Gabriel). 
1 In his call and message the Arabian Muhammad was as 
* truly prophetic as any of the Hebrew prophets of the Old 
Testament. God is one. He is all-powerfuL He is the creator of 
the universe. There is a judgment day. Splendid rewards in 
Paradise await those who carry out God's commands, and 
terrible punishment in hell for those who disregard them. Such 
was the gist of his early message. 

Consecrated and fired by the new task which he felt called 
upon to perform as the messenger (rasuf) of Allah, Muhammad 
now went among his own people teaching, preaching, delivering 
the new message. They laughed him to scorn. He turned 
nadhlr (Koran 67 ; 26; 51 : 50, 51), warner, prophet of doom* 
seeking to effect his purpose by vivid and thrilling description of 
the joys of Paradise and the terrors of hell, even threatening his 
hearers with imminent doom. Short, crisp, expressive and im- 
pressive were his early revelations, the Makkan surahs. 

As glorifier of his Lord, admonisher to his people, messenger 
and prophet (nabi) of Allah, Muhammad was gaining few con- 
verts. KhadTjah, his wife, predisposed through the influence of 
her ftanlf 8 cousin Waraqah ibn-Nawfal, was the first of the few 
who responded to his call. Muhammad's cousin *Ali and his 
kinsman abu-Bakr followed. But abu-Sufyan, representing the 
aristocratic and influential Umayyad branch of Quraysh, stood 
adamant. What they considered a heresy seemed to run counter 
to the best economic interests of the Quraysh as custodians of 
aWCa'bah, the pantheon of multitudinous deities and centre of a 
-pan-Arabian pilgrimage. 

As new recruits, mainly from among the slave and lower 
classes, began to swell the ranks of the believers, the ridicule 
and sarcasm which had hitherto been used unsparingly on the 
, part of the Quraysh w6re no longer deemed effective as weapons; 

1 Koran 74 : x se$* 

* BukhUri,voU,p *,1 n, Compart the call of Isaiah 6 : iseg.S<x Tor Andrae, 
JtfpAamfsfci: stm Zehcn undsetn GlauBe (Gottingcn, 1932), pp. 39 scq. 
Cfiibn-Hisham, pp. isij 143. 


it became necessary to resort to active persecution. These 
new measures resulted in the migration to Abyssinia of eleven 
Makkan families followed in 615 by some eighty-three others, 
chief among whom was that of 'Uthman ibn-'Affan. The <£migr& 
found asylum in the domain of the Christian Negus, who was 
unbending in his refusal to deliver them into the hands of their 
oppressors. 1 Undaunted through these dark days of persecution 
by the temporary loss of so many followers, Muhammad fear- 
lessly continued to preach and by persuasion convert men from 
the worship of the many and false gods to that of the one and 
true God, Allah. The revelations did not cease to "descend", 
He who had marvelled at the Jews and Christians having a 
"scripture** was determined that his people, too, should have 
one. ; 

Soon 'Umar ibn-al-Khattab, destined to play a leading role 
in the establishment of the Islamic state, was enrolled in the 
service of Allah. About three years before the Hijrah the faith- 
ful Khadijah died, and a litde later died abu-Talib, who, though 
he never professed Islam, stood firm to the end in defence of his 
brother's son, his protege. Within this pre-Hijrah period there 
also falls the dramatic t$ra y ? that nocturnal journey in which the 
Prophet is said to have been instantly transported from ai-Ka*bah 
to Jerusalem preliminary to his ascent tyifraj) to the seventh 
heaven. Since it thus served as the terrestrial station on this 
memorable journey, Jerusalem, already sacred to the Jews and 
Christians, has become and remained the third holiest city after 
Makkah and al-Madlnah in the Moslem world. Embellished by 
later accretions this miraculous trip still forms a favourite theme 
in mystic circles in Persia and Turkey, and a Spanish scholar 3 
considers it the original source of Dante's Divine Comedy. That 
the memory of ai-Isrn 4 is still a living, moving force in Islam 
is illustrated by the serious disturbance of August 1929, in 
Palestine, centring on the Wailing Wall of the Jews in Jerusalem, 
which the Moslems consider the halting-place of the Buraq, 4 

1 Ibn-HSsham, pp 217-20; cf. ibn-Sa'd, vol. t, pt. 1, pp. 136-9. 

* Koran 17 : 1; Bukhari, vol. iv, pp 156, 230; al-Baghawi, MajaHA chSunnak 
(Cairo, 1318), vol. ii, pp. 169-72; al-Kha{Tb, Miskkal al-M&sdbth (St. Petersburg, 
1S98-9), vol ii, pp. 124.9. 

* Miguel As(n, Islam and the Divine Comedy, tr, H. Sunderland (London, 1926), 

* Probably from Ar. barq % lightning* Modern Palestinians call the tailing place 



the winged horse with a woman's face and peacock's tail on 
which Muhammad journeyed heavenward. 

About 620 some Yathribites, mainly of the Khazraj tribe, met 
Muhammad at the *Ukaz fair and grew interested in what he had 
to say. Two years later a deputation of about seventy-five men 
invited him to make Yathrib (al-Madinah) his home, hoping 
thereby to secure a means for reconciling the hostile Aws and 
Khazraj, In al-Madinah the Jews, who were looking forward to 
a Messiah, had evidently predisposed their heathen compatriots 
in favour of such a claimant as Muhammad. Having paid a 
futile propagandist visit to al-Ta'if and believing his cause lost 
in his native town, Muhammad allowed two hundred followers 
to elude the vigilance of the Quraysh and slip quietly into al- 
Madlnah, with which his mother had some uncertain connec- 
tion , he himself followed and arrived there on September 24, 622. 
Such was the famous hegira (/ttjra/t) — not entirely a "flight" but 
a scheme of migration carefully considered for some two years. 
Seventeen years later the Cahph 'Umar designated that lunar 
year (beginning July 16) in which the Hijrah took place as the * 
official starting-point of the Moslem era. 1 

The Hijrah, with which the Makkan period ended and the 
MadTnesc period began, proved a turning-point in the life of 
Muhammad. Leaving the city of his birth as a despised prophet, 
he entered the city of his adoption as an honoured chief. The 
seer in him now recedes into the background and the practical 
man of politics comes to the fore. The prophet is gradually over- 
shadowed by the statesman. 

Taking advantage of the periods of "holy truce" and anxious 
to offer sustenance to the Emigrants {muhajirmi) the Madmese 
Moslems, now termed Ansar (Supporters), under the leadership 
of the new chief intercepted a summer caravan on its return from 
Syria to Makkah, thus striking at the most vital point in the life 
of that commercial metropolis. The caravan leader abu-Sufyan 
had got wind of the scheme and sent to Makkah for reinforce- 
ment The encounter between the reinforcement and the Madl- 
nese, mostly Emigrants, took place at Badr, eighty-five miles 
south-west of al-Madinah, in Ramadan, A.D. 624, and, thanks 
to the inspiring leadership of the Prophet, resulted in the com- 
plete victory of three hundred Moslems over a thousand Mak- 

1 Taban, \ol 1, pp. 1256, 2480, Mas'Qdi, vol. ix, p. 53 


{cans. However unimportant in itself as a military engagement, 1 
this Ghazwat Badr laid the foundation of Muhammad's tem- 
poral power. Islam had won its first and decisive military victory. 
The victory itself was interpreted as a divine sanction of the new 
faith. 5 The spirit of discipline and contempt of death manifested 
at this first armed encounter of Islam proved characteristic of it 
in all its later and greater conquests. It is true that in the follow- 
ing year (625) the Makkans under abu-Sufyan avenged at 
Uhud their defeat and even wounded the Prophet, but their 
triumph was not to endure. Islam recovered and passed on 
gradually from the defensive to the offensive, and its propaga- 
tion seemed always assured. Hitherto it had been a religion 
within a state; in al-Madlnah, after Badr, it passed into some- 
thing more than a state religion — it itself became the state. 
Then and there Islam came to be what the world has ever since 
recognized it to be — a militant polity. 

In 627 the "confederates" (al-afrsab\ consisting of Makkans 
with Bedouin and Abyssinian mercenaries, were again measuring 
swords with the Madinese. Heathenism was once more arrayed 
against Allah. On the advice of a Persian follower, Salman, 3 
as we are told, Muhammad had a trench 4 dug round al- 
Madlnah> Disgusted with this innovation in warfare, which 
struck the Bedouin miscellany as the most unsportsmanlike 
thing they had ever seen, the besiegers withdrew at the end of a 
month after the loss of some twenty men on both sides. 5 After 
the siege had been raised Muhammad conducted a campaign 
against the Jews for "siding with the confederates", which 
resulted in the killing of six hundred able-bodied men of their 
leading tribe, the banu-Qurayzah, and the expulsion of the rest. 
The Emigrants were then established on the date plantations 
thus made ownerless. 6 The banu-Qurayzah were the first but 
not the last body of Islam's foes to be offered the alternative of 
apostasy or death, The year before, Muhammad had sent into 
exile the banu-al-Nadir, 7 another Jewish tribe of al-Madinah. 
The Jews of Khaybar, a strongly fortified oasis north of ai- 
Madinah, surrendered in 62S and paid tribute. 

1 MAVuqidi ft 207/822-3) devotes raore than a third ot his Maghazx, pp. 11-75 
10 Badr and its heroes * Koran 3 . 119, 8 : 42*3. 

1 Cf Josef Horovitx in Dcr h{am > vol aui (1922), pp. 17S-83 
4 Ar. khandaq^ from Pers. kandan (to dig) through Aramaic. 
, * Koran 33 j o«2$ discusses this battle. • Koran 33 : 26-7. 

^ ^ r Baladhuri, Fuiuh. pp 17-18 «Hnti, pp -34.5; Wriqidi. pp. 353-6 


In this Madincse period the Arabianteation, the nationaliza- 
tion, of Islam was effected. The new prophet broke off with 
both Judaism and Christianity; Friday was substituted for 
Sabbath, the adhan (call from the minaret) was decreed in place 
of trumpets and gongs, Ramadan was fixed as a month of fasting, 
the qiblah (the direction to be observed during the ritual prayer) 
was changed from Jerusalem 1 to Makkah, the pilgrimage to 
al-Ka'bah was authorized and the kissing of the Black Stone— 
a pre-Islamic fetish — sanctioned. 

in 628 Muhammad led a band ot believers to a settlement, al- 
JSudaybiyah, nine miles from Makkah and exacted a pact in 
which Makkans and Moslems were treated on equal terms. 2 
This treaty practically ended the war with his people* the 
Quraysh. Among other members of this tribe, Khalid ibn-al- 
Walld and * Amr ibn-al-'As CAsi), destined to become the two 
mighty swords of militant Islam, were about this time received 
as recruits to the great cause. Two years later, towards the end 
of January 630 (A.H. 8), the conquest of Makkah was complete. 
Entering its great sanctuary Muhammad smashed themany idols, 
said to have numbered three hundred and sixty, exclaiming: 
"Truth hath come, and falsehood hath vanished!" 3 The people 
themselves, however, were treated with special magnanimity.* 
Hardly a triumphal entry in ancient annals is comparable to this. 

It was probably about this time 6 that the territory around 
the Ka'bah was declared by Muhammad haram (forbidden, 
sacred), and the passage in surah 9 : 28 was revealed which was 
later interpreted as prohibiting all non-Moslems from approach- 
ing it This verse was evidently intended to forbid only the poly- 
theists from drawing nigh to the Ka'bah at the time of the annual 
pilgrimage The injunction as interpreted is still effective 6 No 
more than fifteen Chnstian-born Europeans have thus far succeed* 
ed in seeing the two Holy Cities and escaping with their lives. 
The first to leave record was Ludovico di Varthema of Bologna 7 

1 Cf . I Kings 8 : 29 30, Dan. 6 : xo. 

* Baladhun.pp 33 6 = Hitti, pp 6061. 

s Ibtd p 40 = Hitti, p. 66, cf. Koran 17 : S3. 4 Waqidi, p. 416, 

1 Ibn-SaVUvol u,ptt,p 99, cf* Bajdawi, Anwar i vo! u p 383,1 10. 

* Muhammad Labib al-Batanunt, al-Rihtah al-fftjazSych (Cairo, 1329), p. 47- 

7 He declared false the widely sprcid European legend that Muhammad's body 
lay suspended in the air somewhere abo\e Makkah. See The Travels of Ludameo 
d% Varthtma m Egypt t Sypa, Arabia Dtserta and Arabia Fchx % \x» J. W.Jones 
(Hakluyt Society, vol. xxxu, London, 1863), pp. 25 s*f» 


tn 1503^ and among the latest were an Englishman, Eldon 
Rutter, x and a Hungarian, Julius Germanus. fl The most interest- 
ing was undoubtedly Sir Richard Burton (1853). 3 

-In A.H* 9 Muhammad stationed a garrison at Tabuk, on 
the frontier of Ghassanland, and without a single engage- 
ment concluded treaties of peace with the Christian chief of 
Aylah (ai- c Aqabah) and the Jewish tribes in the oases of 
Maqna, Adhruh and al-Jarba* to the south.* The native Jews and 
"Christians were taken under the protection of the newly arising 
Islamic community in consideration of a payment later called 
jizyah. This act set a precedent far-reaching in its consequences* 

This year 9 (630-31) is called the "y ear of delegations" 
"(sanat al-vnifud). During it delegations flocked from near and 
far to offer allegiance to the prince-prophet. Tribes joined out 
of convenience if not conviction, and Islam contented itself 
^ with exacting a verbal profession of faith and a payment of 
zakah (poor tax). The large number of Bedouins who joined the 
new order may be surmised from a saying attributed to *Umar, 
"The Bedouins are the raw material of Islam". Tribes and 
'districts which had sent no representatives before sent them now. 
They came from distant r Uman, I^adramawt and al-Yaman. 
# The Tayyi* sent deputies and so did the Hamdan and Kindah. 
Arabia, which had hitherto never bowed to the will of one man, 
seemed now inclined to be dominated by Muhammad and be 
incorporated into his new scheme. Its heathenism was yielding 
to a nobler faith and a higher morality. 

in" the tenth Moslem year Muhammad entered peacefully at 
1 he head of the annual pilgnmage into his new religious capital 
Makkah. This proved his last visit and was therefore styled "the 
farewell pilgrimage". Three months after his return to al~ 
Madinah, he unexpectedly took ill and died complaining of 
severe headache on June 8, 632. 

„ To the Madinesc period in the life of the Prophet belong the 
lengthy and more verbose surahs of the Koran which contain, 
in addition to the religious laws governing fasting and alms- 
giving and prayer, social and political ordinances dealing with 
marriage and divorce and the treatment of slaves, prisoners of 
war and enemies. On behalf of the slave, the orphan, the weak 

* ^f^^CjViVr^r^fa,2%'ols.(Ix)ndoii,i928). * Allah Akbar (Berlin, X938). 
* * fierstm at Narrative of a Pilgrimage to cl-Mtdinah and Meccah, 3 vols. (London, 
\ i "SS-G). * Balfidlmri, pp. 59 ssa. ** Hittx, pp. 92 seq. 


and the oppressed we find the legislation of him who was himself 
once a poor orphan especially benevolent. 1 

Even in the height of his glory Muhammad led, as in his 
days of obscurity*, an unpretentious life m one of those clay 
houses consisting, as do all old-fashioned houses of present-day 
Arabia and Syria, of a few rooms opening into a courtyard and 
accessible only therefrom. He was often seen mending his own 
clothes and was at all times within the reach of his people. The 
little he left he regarded as state property. Some for love, others % 
for political reasons, he took about a dozen wives, among whom 
his favourite was 'A'ishah, the young daughter of abu-Bakr. 
By Khadijah he had a number of children, none of whom 
survived him except Fatimah, the famous spouse of 'Ali. Muham- 
mad mourned bitterly the loss of his infant son Ibrahim, born 
to him by Mary, a Christian Copt. "Serious or trivial, his daily 
behaviour has instituted a canon which millions observe at this 
day with conscious mimicry. No one regarded by any section of 
the human race as Perfect Man has been imitated so minutely." 1 

Out of the religious community of al-Madinah the later and 
larger state of Islam arose. This new community of Emigrants 
and Supporters was established on the basis of religion as the 
Ummat (congregation of) Allah. This was the first attempt in the 
history of Arabia at a social organization with religion, rather 
than blood, as its basis. Allah was the personification of state 
supremacy. His Prophet, as long as he lived, was His legitimate 
vicegerent and supreme ruler on earth. As such, Muhammad, in 
addition to his spiritual function, exercised the same temporal 
authority that any chief of a state might exercise. All within this 
community, regardless of tribal affiliation and older loyalties, 
were now brethren at least in principle. These are the words of 
the Prophet in his noble sermon at the "farewell pilgrimage": 

0 ye men! harken unto my words and take ye them to heart! Know 
ye that every Moslem is a brother unto every other Moslem, and that 
ye are now one brotherhood. It is not legitimate for any one of you, 
therefore, to appropriate unto himself anything that belongs to his 
brother unless it is willingly given him by that brother. 3 

Thus by one stroke the most vital bond of Arab relationship, 

1 Koran 2 : 172, 218-19, 4 = 4<>; 9 * 60, 24 : 33; 93 : 9. Consult Robert Roberts, 
The Social Laws of the Qcrur (London, 1925). 

* V). 0 Hogarth, Arabia (Oxford, 1922), p. 52. 

* Ibn-Hisham, p. 9$9» cf. Waqidi, pp. 433-4. 


that of tribal kinship, was replaced by a new bond, that of 
faith; a sort of Pax Islamica was instituted for Arabia. The 
new community was to have no priesthood, no hierarchy, 
no central see. Its mosque was its public forum and military 
drill ground as well as its place of common worship. The 
leader in prayer, the tmdm, was also to be commander in 
chief of the army of the faithful, who were enjoined to protect 
one another against the entire world. All Arabians who remained 
heathen were outside the pale, almost outlaws. Islam cancelled 
the past. Wine (khamr y from Aramaic) and gambling — next to 
women the two indulgences dearest to the Arabian heart — were 
abolished in one verse. 1 Singing, almost equally attractive, was 
frowned upon. This contrast between the old order and the new 
was vividly drawn by the apocryphal words put in the mouth of 
Ja'far ibn-abi-Talib, the spokesman of the Moslem emigrants to 
Abyssinia. Said Ja'far to the Negus: 

Jahillyah people were we, worshipping idols, feeding on dead 
animals [maytah\\ practising immorality, deserting our families and 
violating the covenant terms of mutual protection, with the strong 
among us devouring the weak. Such was our state until Allah sent unto 
us a messenger from amongst ourselves whose ancestry we know and 
whose veracity, fidelity and purity we recognize. He it was who sum- 
moned us to Allah in order to profess Him as one and worship Him 
alone, discarding whatever stones and idols we and our forbears before 
us worshipped in His stead. He moreover commanded us to be truthful 
, in our talk, to render to others what is due them, to stand by our families 
and to refrain from doing wrong and shedding blood. He forbade com- 
mitting fornication, bearing false witness, depriving the orphan of his 
legitimate right and speaking ill of chaste women. He enjoined on us 
the worship of Allah alone, associating with Him no other. He also 
ordered us to observe prayer, pay zakah [alms] and practise fasting, 3 

From al-Madinah the Islamic theocracy spread all over Arabia 
and later encompassed the larger part of Western Asia and 
North Africa. The community of al-Madinah was in miniature 
the subsequent community of Islam. 

Within a brief span of mortal life Muhammad called forth 
out of unpromising material a nation never united before, in a 

1 Koran $ 1 9*. The Kabatacans bad an anti-bacchic deity. 
1 C£ Koran zz 168. 

* S^stfeg was ordained m the Madinese period, long after the Abyssinian mim< 
i ;*Jon; Koran 2 5 17$, t8s. Ibn^Hisham, p. ax$. 


country that was hitherto but a geographical expression; estab- 
lished a religion which in vast areas superseded Christianity and 
Judaism and still claims the adherence of a goodly portion of the 
human race; and laid the basis of an empire that was soon to 
embrace within its far-flung boundaries the fairest provinces of 
the then civilized world. Himself an unschooled man, 1 Muham- 
mad was nevertheless responsible for a book still considered by 
one-eighth of mankind as the embodiment of all science, wisdom 
and theology. 

1 Koranic ummi (3 1 19), which Sunni (orthodox) Moslems interpret "illiterate", 
is explained by T&an, Tefstr, vol. iii, p. 143, as one among the Arabian polyt heists, 
who have no revelation. Critical scholars point out that in the Koran {7 : 156; 
3 : 68-9; 62 : 2) the term is used as if in opposition to M cUkttab (the people of the 
Book) and should therefore be taken to mean one unable to read the holy scriptures 
of the earlier revealed religions, surah 2$: 6 is quoted as suggesting Muhammad's 
ability to write Arabic 




THE year following the death of Muhammad, according to the 
orthodox view, abu-Bakr, on the recommendation of *Umar, 
who had observed that the Koran memorizers {kuffa?) were 
becoming extinct, ordered that the scattered portions of the 
Koran be collected* Zayd ibn-Thabit of al-Madlnah, formerly 
Muhammad*s secretary, was entrusted with the task. Fragments 
from "ribs of palm-leaves and tablets of white stone and from 
the breasts of men" 1 were brought together and a text was con* 
structed. In the caliphate of *Uthman (644-56) various readings 
in the current copies arose, due mainly to the defective nature of 
Kufic script; 'Uthman accordingly appointed in 651 the same 
Zayd as chairman of the committee on revision. Abu-Bakr's copy, 
then in the custody of rjafsah, daughter of *Umar and one of 
Muhammad's widows, was used as a basis. The original codex of 
the fresh version was kept in al-Madmah; * three copies of this 
text were made and forwarded to the three military camps in 
Damascus, al-Basrahand al-Kufah,and all others were destroyed* 
The modern scholarly view, however, doubts whether abu- 
Bakr ever made an official recension and maintains that 'Uthman 
found several metropolitan codices in Arabia, Syria and al-'Iraq 
with divergent readings. 'Uthman canonized the Madman codex 
1 and ordered all others destroyed. The text was finally fixed by 
^ the two vizirs ibn-Muqlah and ibn-*Isa in 933 with the help of 
the learned ibn-Mujahid. Ibn-Mujahid admitted seven readings, 
which had developed because of lack of vowel and diacritical 
1 markkas canonical, 3 

The Moslem view is that the Koran is the word of Allah 

* KhaJIb, Mishk&ht vol, i,T> 4 343. 

* This copy is said to have been presented by the Turkish authorities to Emperor 
William 1L See Versailles Treaty, I>r. vTtt, Sec, II, art. 246 

Arthur Jeffcty, Materials for ire History of the Text of the Koran {Leyden, 
*S37)j pp. 1*10; cf Kartwig Hirsthfdd, Jfetv Researches tnlo the Composition and 
b&tgesis of (At JCoran (London, 1902), pp. 13S 



dictated through Gabriel to Muhammad from an archetype pre- 
served in the seventh heaven (surs. 43:3, 56:76-9, 85:21-2).* Not 
only is the mcaningthereforeinspired but every word, every letter. 

The arrangement of the surahs (koranic chapters) is mechani- 
cal, in the order of their length. The Makkan surahs, about 
ninety in number and belonging to the period of struggle, are 
mostly short, incisive, fiery, impassioned in style and replete 
with prophetic feeling. In them the oneness of Allah, His attri- 
butes, the ethical duties of man and the coming retribution 
constitute the favourite themes. The Madinese surahs, the 
remaining twenty-four (about one-third of the contents of the 
Koran) which "were sent down" (unzitat) in the period of victory, 
are mostly long, verbose and rich in legislative material. In 
them theological dogmas and ceremonial regulations relating to 
the institution of public prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and the 
sacred months are laid down. They moreover contain laws 
prohibiting wine, pork and gambling; fiscal and military ordin- 
ances relating to alms-giving (sakdH) and holy war (JiJidd); 
civil and criminal laws regarding homicide, retaliation, theft, 
usury, marriage and divorce, adultery, inheritance and the 
freeing of slaves. Surahs 2, 4 and 5 contain most of this legisla- 
tive material. The often-quoted prescription for marriage (sun 
4:3)* limit rather than introduce the practice of polygamy. 
Critics consider the statutes relating to divorce (4 : 24, 33 : 48, 
2 : 229) the most objectionable, and those about the treatment of 
slaves, orphans and strangers (4 : 2, 3, 40; 16 : 73; 24 : 33) the 
most humane portions of Islamic legislation. The manumission 
of slaves is inculcated as something most pleasing to God and 
regarded as an expiation for many a sin. Flashes of the old 
eloquence and prophetic spark appear here and there in the 
Madlnese surahs, as in surah 24. 8 Among the noblest verses of 
the Koran are surah 2 : 172, 256. 

Almost alL the historical narratives of the Koran have their 
biblical parallels with the exception of a few purely Arabian 
stories relating to 'Ad and Thamud, Luqman, the "owners of 
the elephant", and two others alluding to Alexander the Great 
{Iskandar dhu-al-QaniaynY and to the "Seven Sleepers" — all 

1 Consult Baj^awi, vol. ii, pp 235, 309-10, 396. 1 Cf. sur. 70 : 29-30. 

* The verses in this surah dealing with light betray Zoroastnan influence. 
4 Siir. 18:82 stg. s vrhcre he seems to be invested with a divine commission, 
Dan 8 : 5, 21, has a clear reference to Alexander. 


of which receive but very brief mention. Among the Old Testa- 
ment characters, Adam, Noah, Abraham 1 (mentioned about 
seventy times in twenty-five different surahs and having his 
name as a title for surah 14), Ishmael, Lot, Joseph (to whom 
surah 12 is dedicated), Moses (whose name occurs in thirty T four 
different surahs), Saul, David, Solomon, Elijah, Job and Jonah 
(whose name surah 10 bears) figure prominently. The story of 
the creation and fall of Adam is cited five times, the flood eight 
and Sodom eight. In fact the Koran shows more parallelism to 
the Pentateuch than to any other part of the Bible. 

All these narratives are used didactically, not for the object of 
telling a story but to preach amoral, to teach that God in former 
times has always rewarded the righteous and punished the 
wicked. The story of Joseph is told in a most interesting and 
realistic way. The variations in this and in such other instances 
as the story of Abraham's response to the call of the one true 
God (sur, 21 : 52 seg.) have their parallels in the midrash, 
Talmud and other non-canonical Jewish works. 2 

Of the New Testament characters Zachariah, John the 
Baptist, Jesus (*Isa) and Mary are the only ones emphasized. 
The last two names are generally associated, Mary the mother of 
Jesus is also the daughter of 'Imran and a sister of Aaron. 5 
Haman (Hainan), the favourite of Ahasuerus, 4 is himself tht? 
minister of Pharaoh. 5 It is worthy of note that the Arabic forms 
of the names of the Old Testament characters seem to have come 
mainly through Syriac (e.g. Nuh, Noah) and Greek (e.g. Ilyas, 
Elias; Yunus, Jonah) rather than directly from Hebrew. 

~A comparative study of the above koranic and biblical nar- 
ratives and such parallel passages as those that follow reveals 
no verbal dependence: sur. 2 ; 44-58 and Acts 7 : 36-53; sur. 
2 : 273 and Matt 6 ; 3, 4; sur. 10 : 72 and 2 Pet. 2 : 5; surs. 10 : 73, 
24: 50 and Deut 26 : 14, 17; sur. 17 : 23-40 and Ex. 20 : 2-17, 
Dcut 5 : sur. 21 : 20 and Rev. 4 ; 8; sur. 23 : 3 and Matt. 

^ * In the Madincse surahs. Abraham becomes a #anlf, a Moslem (sur. 3 : 60). He 
a held as Muhammad's ideal predecessor, the spiritual ancestor of Islam (surs. 
4: 124; 3 *60 and the founder of ai-Ka*lmh (a ; 118 seq ) As the "friend" of God 
he is cited in the Old Testament (Is 41 s S, 2 CK 20 : the New Testament (Tas. 
2 1 ?3) and the Koran (4 : 1 24), 
1 Consult The Z*gc~y of Israel, ed E. & Bevan and C. Singer (Oxford, 1028), 

Surs. 19 « i6-8 9j 3 . 31 . 40 4 Esther 3 : 1. 



6 : 7; sun 36 : 53 and 1 Th. 4 : 16; sur. 39 : 30 and Matt. 6 : 24; 
sur. 42 : 19 and Gal. 6 : 7-9; sur. 48 : 29 and Mk. 4 : 28; and 
sur. 92 : 18 and Lk. 11 : 41T The only quotation is sur. 21 : 105 
(cf. Ps. 37 : 9) where the Koran cites the Psalms as the source. 
Others which bear striking resemblance are sur* 21 : 104 and 
Is. 34:4; sur. 53:39-42 and Ezek. 18:20; sur. 53:45 and 
1 Sam. 2 : 6; and sur. 53 : 49 and 1 Sam. 2 : 7. Such verses as 
those dealing with an "eye for an eye" (sur. 5 : 49 and Ex. 
21 : 23-7), the "camel and the needle" (sur. 7 : 38 and Matt. 19 : 24), 
the "house built upon the sand" (sur. 9:110 and Matt. 7 : 24-7) 
and the "taste of death for every man" (surs. 21 : 36. 29 : 57. 
3 : 182 and Heb. 9 : 27, 2 : 9, Matt. 16 : 28) evidently represent 
old Semitic proverbs and sayings common to both Hebrew and 
Arabic. The parallels between Matthew and the Makkan surahs 
seem particularly copious. Certain miraculous acts attributed to 
Jesus the child, such as speaking in the cradle (sun 3 : 41) and 
creating birds out of clay (sur. 3 : 43). recall similar acts recorded 
in the Apocryphal Gospels, including the Injil al-Tuffdiyak. 
The only conspicuous parallel with any of the contents of the 
sacred books of Persia occurs in the picture of heaven and hell, 
sketched with a brush dipped in materialistic colours (sur. 
56 : 8-56), which has a counterpart in the late writings of the 
Parsis. The picture itself may have been inspired by Christian 
miniatures or mosaics representing the gardens of Paradise with 
figures of angels which were interpreted as being those of young 
men and young women. 

Though the youngest of the epoch-making books, the Koran 
is the most widely read book ever written, for besides its use in 
worship, it is the text- book from which practically every Moslem 
learns to read Arabic. Other than the official translation into 
Turkish no authorized Moslem translation into a foreign language 
exists; but there are unauthorized interlinear free translations 
by Moslems into several languages, including Persian, Bengali, 
Urdu, Marathi, Javanese and Chinese. In all, the Koran has 
been done into some forty languages. 1 The words (77,934), the 

4 The first transition into a foreign language was that into Latin sponsored 
(1143) by Peter the Venerable, abbot of CI any. who secured the services of three 
Christian scholars and an Arab, in an attempt to refute the beliefs of Islam. In 
English the first translation appeared in 1649 (London), "TJtc Alcoran of Mahomet^ 
translated out of Arabiquc into French; by the Sieur Du Ryer, . . . And newly 
Englished, for the satisfaction of all that desire to look into the Turkish vanities". 
Sale's translation (1734) from the original Arabic is a paraphrase influenced by the 


verses (6236) and even the letters (323,621) 1 have been pains- 
takingly counted. This unbounded reverence for The Book 
reached its climax in the later dogma that it is "the uncreated 
word'* of God, an echo of the "Logos" theory. 8 "Let none touch it 
but the purified, 1 ' 3 In our own day the sight of a Moslem picking 
up a piece of paper from the street and tucking it carefully into 
a hole in a wall— lest the name of Allah be on it— is not rare. 

The word Qur*an itself means recitation, lecture, discourse. 
This book, a strong, living voice, is meant for oral recitation and 
should be heard in the original to be appreciated. No small 
measure of its force lies in its rhyme and rhetoric and in the 
cadence and sweep, which cannot be reproduced in translation 
without loss. Its length is four-fifths of that of the Arabic New 
Testament. The religious influence it exercises as the basis of 
Islam and the final authority in matters spiritual and ethical is 
only one -side of the story. Theology, jurisprudence and science 
being considered by Moslems as different aspects of one and the 
same thing, the Koran becomes the scientific manual, the text- 
book, for acquiring a liberal education. In such a school as al- 
Azhar, the largest Moslem university in the world, this book still 
holds its own as the basis of the whole curriculum. Its literary 
influence may be appreciated when we realize that it was due to 
it alone that the various dialects of the Arabic-speaking peoples 
have not fallen apart into distinct languages, as have the Romance 
languages* While today an 'Iraqi may find it a little difficult 
fully to understand the speech of a Moroccan, yet he would have 
no difficulty in understanding his written language, since in 
both al-'Iraq and Morocco — as well as in Syria, Arabia, Egypt 
—the classical language modelled by the Koran is followed 
closely everywhere. At the time of Muhammad there was no 
work of the first order in Arabic prose. The Koran was therefore 
the earliest, and has ever since remained the model, prose work. 
Its language is rhythmical and rhetorical, but not poetical. Its 
rhymed prose has set the standard which almost every conserva- 
tive Arabic writer of today consciously strives to imitate. 

Latin Version of Marracd's Reftltatio Alteram (1698); RodwelTs {1861) arrange* 
ftesurabs chronologically; Palmer's (1S80) tries to reproduce the Oriental flavour; 
MarmadnVe BcktliaU r s (1930) is especially successful, RichaTd Bell (1937*9) 
attempts a critical rearrangement of the verses. The earliest Arabic printing of the 
Koraa was done between 1485 and 1499 in Venice by AIessandro<le Fnganini 
* There are other enumerations, 1 Cf John Pro v.aa-so. * Sur. 36: 78.8: 



Of the three monotheistic religions developed by the Semites, 
the Islam of the Koran is the most characteristic and comes 
nearer the Judaism of the Old Testament than does the Christi- 
anity of the New Testament. It has such close affinities with both, 
however, that in the conception of many medieval European and 
Oriental Christians it stood as a heretic Christian sect rather 
than a distinct religion. In his Divine Comedy Dante consigns 
Muhammad to one of the lower hells with all those " sowers of 
scandals and schism". Gradually Islam developed into an in- 
dependent and distinct system of belief. The Ka'bah and Quraysh 
were the determining factors in this new orientation. 

In dealing with the fundamentals of their religion Moslem 
theologians distinguish between iman (religious belief), *ibadat 
(acts of worship, religious duty) and thsdn (right-doing), all of 
which are included in the term din (religion). 1 "Verily the 
religion [din] with God is Islam."* 

Iman involves belief in God and in His angels, His "books" 
and His messengers and in the last day. Its first and greatest 
dogma is: la tlaha illa-l-Lak^ no god whatsoever but Allah. In 
iman the conception of God stands supreme. In fact, over ninety 
per cent, of Moslem theology has to do with Allah. He is the one 
true God. The profession of His unity receives its most poignant 
expression in surah 112. God is the supreme reality, the pre- 
existent, the creator (surs. 16:3-17; 2:27-8), the omniscient, 
omnipotent (13 : 9-17; 6 : 59-62; 2 : 100-101; 3 : 25-7), the self- 
subsistent (2 : 256; 3:1). He has ninety-nine excellent names 
(al-asma* al-husna? sur. 7: 179) and as many attributes. The 
full Moslem rosary has ninety-nine beads corresponding to His 

1 Cf. al-Shahrastani, al-Milal w-aUNthal t ed. Cuteton (London, 1842-6), p. 27. 
■ Koran 3 • 17. 

* Al Ghazzah, a!-Maq$ad al-Asna, 2nd cd. (Cairo, 1324), pp. 12 seqs t Baghawi, 
ItfafdbJtt % vol. 1, pp. 96-7. 



names. His attributes {sifdt) of love are overshadowed by those 
of might and majesty (sur. 59 : 23~4)« Islam (surs. 5 : $ , 6 : 125, 
49 ; 14) Is the religion of "submission", "surrender", to the will of 
Allah. The submission of Abraham and his son in the supreme 
test, the attempted sacrifice by the father, expressed in the verb 
aslamd (sur. 37 : 103), was evidently the act that provided 
Muhammad with the name for the new faith. 1 In this uncom- 
promising monotheism, with its simple, enthusiastic faith in the 
supreme rule of a transcendent being, lies the chief strength of 
Islam. Its adherents enjoy a consciousness of contentment and 
resignation unknown among followers of most creeds. Suicide is 
rare in Moslem lands. 

The second dogma in tmdn treats of Muhammad as the 
messenger (rasul) of Allah (surs. 7 : 157; 48 : 29), His prophet 
(7 * 1 $6* *e admonisher (35 : 22) of his people, the last of 
a long line of prophets of whom he is the "seal" (33 : 40), and 
therefore the greatest. In the koranic system of theology Muham- 
mad is but a human being whose only miracle is the i*jaz of the 
Koran; 8 but in tradition, folklore and popular belief he is in- 
vested with a divine aura. His religion is pre-eminently a practical 
one, reflecting the practical and efficient mind of its originator. 
It offers no unattainable ideal, few theological complications and 
perplexities, no mystical sacraments and no priestly hierarchy 
involving ordination, consecration and "apostolic succession". 

The Koran is the word (kaidm, surs. 9:6; 48 : 15, cf. 6 : 
114-15) of Allah. It contains the final revelation (surs. 17 : 107-8; 
97 ; 1; 44:2; 28: 51; 46: 11) and is "uncreated". A koranic 
quotation is always introduced with "saith Allah". Initsphonetic 
and graphic reproduction and in its linguistic form the Koran is 
identical and co-eternal with a heavenly archetype (surs. 56 : 
76-9; 8$ : 21-2). Of all miracles it is the greatest: all men and 
Jinn in collaboration could not produce its like (17 : 90). 

In its angelology Islam gives the foremost place to Gabriel 
(JibrtT^the bearer of revelation (2 : 91), 3 who is also "the spirit 

1 C. C Tonrey, Tkijtfiisk Foundation of fclan (New York, 1933), pp 90, X02 

* The elegance of its composition, which constitutes its miraculous character* 
'Koran 13 : 27-30; 1? t £7-96 See ibn^Hazm, <xl-Fa;I aUMilal w-at-Akwd* wal- 
< £*M vol. sii (Cairo, i^tf), pp 10-14; al-Suyutj, eMtq&n fi 'Mum at-Qur % Sn 

(Cairo, 192$), vol. it,~pp. 116-25. 0 
j * ^rsn contains the only distinct assertion of Gabriel's being the medium 

of revelation; cf. surs 81 : 19-20; 53 1 5-7. 


of holiness" (16 : 104; 2 : 81) and "the faithful spirit" (26 : 193). 
As a messenger of the supreme deity he corresponds to the Hermes 
of Greek mythology. 

Sin can be either moral or ceremonial. The worst and only 
unpardonable sin is shirk, joining or associating of other gods 
with the one true God (4:51, 116). Ascribing plurality to 
the Deity seemed most detestable to Muhammad, and in the 
Madinese surahs the polytheists are continually threatened with 
the last judgment (28 : 62 seg. 9 21 :gS seg.). In Muhammad's 
mind "the people of the book", the Scripturaries, 1 i.e. the Chris- 
tians and Jews, were probably not included among the poly- 
theists* though some commentators on sur. 98 : 5 would hold 
a different view. 

The most impressive parts of the Koran deal with eschatology. 
One whole surah (75) is entitled The Resurrection (al-qiyamah). 
The reality of future life is emphasized by the recurrent references 
to "the day of judgment" (15 : 35-6; 82 : 17-18), "the day of 
resurrection" (22 : 5; 30 ; 56), "the day" (24 : 24-5; 31 : 32), 
"the hour" (15 ; 85; 18 : 20) and "the indubitable" (69: 1-2). 
Future life as depicted in the Koran, with its bodily pains and 
physical pleasures, implies the resurrection of the bod v 

The The religious duties (^ibdddt) of the Moslem centre on the 

p"\\ aTtt so-called five pillars (arkdn) of Islam. 

t. Pro- The profession of faith (shahddah), the first pillar, is summed 
fessumof ^ ^ Koranic double formula la ilaha illa-l-Ldh; Muham- 
madunrasulu-ULdh (no god whatsoever but Allah; Muhammad 
is the messenger of Allah). These are the first words to strike the 
ear of the new-born Moslem babe; they are the last to be uttered at 
the grave. Between these two episodes no other words are more 
often repeated. They also occur in the muezzin's call to prayer 
chanted many times daily from the tops of minarets. Islam has 
generally satisfied itself with a verbal profession; once the formula 
is accepted and reproduced the person is nominally a Moslem. 
Prayer Five times a day 5 is the faithful Moslem supposed to turn his 
face towards Makkah and recite his prescribed prayer. Prayer is 
the second pillar of faith. A bird's-eye view of the Moslem world 
at the hour of prayer (ignoring the difference caused by longitude 
and latitude) would present the spectacle of a series of concentric 

1 H, Lammens, VIslamx croyances et institutions (Beirut, 1926), p. 62, 1. 17, and 
p. 219, 1. 7. * Dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. 


circles of worshippers radiating from the Ka'bah at Mafckah and' ' 
covering an ever-widening area from Sierra Leone to Malaysia 
and from Tobolsk to Capetown. 

The word for ritual prayer* saldh, is an Aramaic loan-word, as 
its Arabic orthography (with a waw) suggests. If prayer existed 
before Islam it must have been unorganized and informal. 
Though it is encouraged in an early surah (87 : 15) and its re- 
quirements are set forth in certain Makkan revelations (11 : 1 16; 
17 : 80-81; 30 : 16-17), ritual prayer, with its prescribed number 
of five separate and distinct orisons per day and the prerequisite 
state of legal purity or ceremonial cleanliness (2 : 239, 24 : 57, 1 
4 : 46, 5 : 8-9), was not instituted until the Madmese period. The 
middle prayer (2 : 239) was the last enjoined. The number five, 
according to al-Bukhari, 2 was a compromise reached after Allah 
had asked for fifty on the occasion of Muhammad's visit to the 
seventh heaven on his nocturnal journey (sur. 17 : 1). Sur. 4 : 46 
seems to suggest that the limitation and later interdiction of the 
use of wine may have owed its origin to the necessity of keeping 
the divine service free from undue disturbance. 

The ritual prayer is a legally defined act performed by all 
with the same general bodily postures and genuflections and with 
the same proper orientation. The worshipper should be in a state 
of legal purity (taharaff), and the use of Arabic as a medium of 
expression is absolutely incumbent upon him, no matter what his 
native tongue may be. In its stereotyped form prayer is not so 
much petition or supplication 3 as it is the mention of Allah's 
name (62 : 9-10; 8 : 47). The simple and meaningful fatihah, 
often likened to the Lord's Prayer, is reiterated by the faithful 
Moslem about twenty times a day. This makes it one of the most 
often repeated formulas ever devised. Doubly meritorious is the 
voluntary ritual prayer performed at night (tahajjud* 17 : 81; 
SO : 38-9), for it is a work of supererogation (ndfilafi). 

The Friday noon prayer is the only public one (62 : 9; 5 : 63) 
and is obligatory for all adult males. Certain mosques have 
places reserved for women. One feature of the Friday service is 
the khuibah (address) delivered by the leader (imdm\ in which 

intercessory prayer is offered on behalf of the ruling head of the 

i ^ * 

I 55;J7. t , ' * $ahm, vol i, pp. S$ sc<?.; cf. Gen. 18 * 23-33. 

j nnregumtcd and private or individual prayer, not to be confused 


state. This congregational assembly had for its prototype the 
Jewish synagogue worship, but was influenced in its later develop- 
ment by the Christian Sunday service. In dignity, simplicity and 
orderliness it is unsurpassed as a manner of collective worship. 
Standing erect in self-arranged rows in the mosque and follow- 
ing the leadership of the imam with precision and reverence, 
the worshippers present a sight that is always impressive. As a 
disciplinary measure this congregational prayer must have had 
great value for the proud, individualistic sons of the desert. It 
developed in them the sense of social equality and the con- 
sciousness of solidarity. It promoted that brotherhood of com- 
munity of believers which the religion of Muhammad had 
theoretically substituted for blood relationship. The prayer 
ground thus became "the first drill ground of Islam". 

3 Alms Prescribed originally as a voluntary act of love and considered 
almost identical with piety, zakah (legal alms, stirs 2 40, 77, 
192, 263-9, 273-5, 2 8o) evolved into an obligatory tax on property, 
including money, cattle, corn, fruit and merchandise. In the 
Koran (9 • 5 , 2 : 40, 77, etc.) zakah is often associated with the 
saldh. The young Islamic state collected zakah through regular 
officials and administered it from a central treasury to support 
the poor among the community, build mosques and defray 
government expenses (sur. 9 : 60). The word zakah is of Aramaic 
origin and is more specific than sadaqah> which is voluntary and 
implies alms- giving in general. Zakah is a purely denominational 
institution, involving alms raised and distributed among Mos- 
lems alone. Its underlying principle tallies with the tithe, which, 
according to Pliny, 1 the South Arabian merchants had to pay to 
their god before they were allowed to sell their spices. Its exact 
amount varied and has been determined in the various cases by the 
fiqh (religious law), but generally it averaged two and a half per 
cent. Even soldiers' pensions were not exempt. Later, with the dis- 
integration of the purely Islamic state, zakah was again left to the 
Moslem's conscience. Zakah constitutes the third pillar of the faith 

4. Pasung Though penitential fasts are prescribed a number of times in 
the Madinese surahs (58 : 5; 19 : 27; 4 : 94; 2 : 192), Ramadan 
as a fasting month is mentioned only once (2 : 179-81). That 
particular month, which may have been sacred in pre-Islamic 
days, was chosen because in it the Koran was first revealed 
* Bfc. XII, ch. 32. 

1 - * A 


(sun 2 ; and the victory of Badr won. Abstinence from all 
food and drink is enjoined from dawn till sunset (sur. 2 : 1IJ3). 
Instances in which violence has been used in modern times by 
the government or by the populace against a non-fasting believer 
in Moslem lands are not unknown, 

,We have no evidence of any practice of fasting in pre-Islamic 
pagan Arabia, but the institution was, of course, well established 
among both Christians and Jews (Matt* 4 ; 2; Deut* 9 : 9). Ibn- 
Hisham 1 states that the Quraysh in the JahiKyah days were wont 
to spend one month a year on Mt. IJira* practising penance 
(tafrannutli). In ai-Madlnah and before instituting Ramadan, 
Muhammad evidently observed the tenth of Muharram (?dsku? a) 
as a fast day; this he had adopted from the Jews. 2 In the Makkan 
surahs the word for fasting ($awm) occurs only once (19 : 27), and 
there apparently in the sense of "silence". 

Pilgrimage (jtajj t stirs. 3 : 91; 2 : 192-6; 5 : 1-2, 96) is the > j 
fifth and last pillar of Islam. Once in a lifetime every Moslem gm 
of either sex who can afford it is supposed to undertake at a 
stated time of the year a holy visit to Makkah, *Umrak is the 
lesser pilgrimage to Makkah and may be made individually and 
at any time. 

The pilgrim Qtajf) makes his entry into the holy precincts as a 
muhrim (wearing a seamless garment) and performs the seven- 
fold circumambulation of the Ka'bah {tawdf) and the seven-fold 
course (sa^y) between the adjacent al-Safa mound and the 
Marwah eminence lying opposite. 8 The hajj proper begins with 
the march to *Arafah, 4 which lasts from the seventh to the 
eighth of dhu-al-IJijjah. The halts {wuqiif) take place at the 
outlying sanctuaries of f Arafah, namely, al-Muzdahfah and 
Mina. The stone-throwing ceremony takes place on the way to 
the valley of Mina at Jamrat al-*Aqabah. With the sacrifice at 
Mina of a camel or of a sheep or other horned domestic animal 
(Koran 22 : $4-7), which always takes place on the tenth of 
dhu-al-IJijjah and is celebrated throughout the Moslem world 
as *ld al-Adha (the festival of sacrifice), the whole ceremony 

1 StrzA, pp. X$i»2^ * BuMiari, vol. ii, p. 20S; Lev. x6 : 29. 

Moslems, according to their tradition, perform the say in commemoration of 
wt fact that Hagar ran back and forth seven times between these two eminences 
looHng for a spring for her thirsty son. 

a Arafah is the valley and 'Arafat the mountain, according to Rif at, Mirdi % 
VoLx, p> 44, but the two words are often used interchangeably. 


formally ends. After the shaving of the head the garment 
{ihrdm) is discarded and the ihlal (secular condition) resumed. 
As long as he is muhritn^ in a sanctified state, the pilgrim must 
observe, in addition to the abstinences imposed in connection 
with the fasting of Ramadan, such as sexual intercourse, those 
special regulations forbidding the shedding of blood, hunting 
and the uprooting of plants Fasting, however, is not required 
Pilgrimage to holy places was an ancient Semitic institution. 1 
Echoes of it survived to Old Testament days (Ex. 23 : 14, 17; 
34 : 22-3; 1 Sam. 1 : 3). Originally it may have been a feature 
cf solar cult, the ceremonies of which coincided with the autumnal 
equinox and constituted a kind of farewell to the harsh rule of 
the burning sun and a welcoming to Quzah, the thunder-sod of 
fertility. In prc-Islamic days the annual fairs of North Arabia 
were followed by a pilgrimage in dhu-al-FIijjah to the Ka'bah 
and "Arafah. In the seventh year of the Hijrah Muhammad 
adopted and Islamized the ancient pilgrim rites centring on the 
Ka'bah and 'Arafah. In these rites Islam entered upon its largest 
share of heritage from pre-Islamic Arabia. Rif'at 2 relates that 
when a Bedouin nowadays makes his ritual walk round the 
Ka'bah he repeats in colloquial Arabic: "O Lord of this House! 
I testify that I have come. Say not that I have not come. Forgive 
me and forgive my father, if you will. Otherwise forgive me in 
spite of your unwillingness, for I have performed my pilgrimage, 
as you see." 3 

A constant trek of pilgrims across Central Africa, from Sene- 
gal, Liberia, Nigeria, is ever on the move eastward and increas- 
ing in numbers as it goes along. Some are on foot, others on 
camel-back. The major ity arc men, but a few are women and 
children. They trade, they beg, they work their way into the 
Highly Honoured Makkah (al-Mukarramah) and the Greatly 
Illuminated City (al-Madmah al-Munawwarah). Many fall by 
the wayside and are martyrs, those who survive finally strike 

1 W. Robertson Smith, Lectures on the Rchgton of the Semites, 3rd cd by S. A. 
C00U (London, 1927)1 PP 80, 276 
« Vol 1, p. 35. 

a The same authority (vol i, p. 35) o\erhcard a Bedouin woman addressing 
herself to al-Ka'bah thus- "O Lidy Laylahl if you bring rain to our region so that 
plenty \khayr\ may follow, I shall fetch you a bottle of ghee so that you mi> anoint 
your hair". Hearing this another Bedouin woman asked the speaker, "Do you 
really mean to fetch her one as you say?" to which the former replied, "Hush, I 
am fooling her. Once she brings the rain I shall fetch nothing!" 

■ • a|weifem%e<l " Sea port, whence they arc 'traxisporUd across "by 
,;a&wsr:But the 1 four miajor caravans aire those fromal-Yaman;"' 
al-'IraqrSyria and Egypt. Each of these countries used to send 
anxlually at the head of its caravan a mahmil symbolic of its 
dignity. The Mahmil, a splendidly decorated litter, is carried on 
a camel that is led and not ridden. Beginning with the thir- 

From Urahfrft JtyVA "MtYti at-ganmayn" 
vif^ Viy v ' 1 ^ R0H AL-MUZDALIFAH TO MINA, 1904 

..telsntli rpentury ^siich "Mahiriils were sent by Moslem princes 
•anxious 'to "idisplay;; their independence and assert their claim as 
;-p£^ Places/ Current tradition holds that 

^H^> °^ P °f thelastAyyubid sultans, originated 
Jthe idea of ^ahrnil in the middle of the thirteenth century. But in 
several early :works I the claim is made that the Umayyad viceroy 
Jn$r!Mj^ (f 7 14), was the one who initiated 

*he ; ^ stories be correct it was quite 

; £ut(tan> vol. iv, p. 886, I 6; ibo 

1288), p. 68. 


evidently the Mamluk Baybars (1260-77) wno celebrated the 
occasion with such special festivities that the custom was estab- 
lished on a firm basis. 1 In recent years the Syrian and Egyptian 
caravans had been distinguished in splendour. The average 
number of pilgrims annually between the first and second World 
Wars had been about 172,000. Since then it has been on the 
increase, reaching in the mid-1960s the million mark with Egypt 
and Pakistan sending the largest numbers. Puritanical ibn- 
Su'ud abolished the Mahmil, a relic of heathenism. In the pilgrim 
age rjlijaz had its main source of income until the discovery of oil. 1 
Down through the ages this institution has continued to serve 
as the major unifying influence in Islam and the most effective 
common bond among the diverse believers. It rendered almost 
every capable Moslem perforce a traveller for once in his life-^ 
time. The socializing influence of such a gathering of the brother- 
hood of believers from the four quarters of the earth is hard to 
over-estimate. It afforded opportunity for negroes, Berbers, 
Chinese, Persians, Syrians, Turks, Arabs — rich and poor, high 
and low — to fraternize and meet together on the common ground 
of faith* Of all world religions Islam seems to have attained the 
largest measure of success in demolishing the barriers of race, 
colour and nationality — at least within the confines of its own 
community. The line is drawn only between believers and the 
rest of mankind. These hajj gatherings have undoubtedly con- 
tributed their share towards the achievement of that result. They 
have further provided excellent opportunities for the propagation 
of sectarian ideas among peoples coming from lands not bound 
together by the modern means of communication and where the 
voice of the press is not yet a living voice. Such a movement as the 
Sanusi in northern Africa owes its inception and early propaga- 
tion to the intercourse provided by the pilgrimage to Makkah. 
Holy War The duty oi jihad, holy war 2 (sur. 2 : 186-90), has been raised 
to the dignity of a sixth pillar by at least one Moslem sect, the 
Kharijites. To it Islam owes its unparalleled expansion as a 
worldly power. It is one of the principal duties of the caliph to 

1 SuyQn, f/ustt, vol. «, p 74; cf«al-Maqri2t,A/*4/<ttv£*tt wal*7*tt&dr t td Gaston 
SViet (Cairo, 1922), \ol in, p 300, al Suluk fi Man/at Duwa/ al Mute tr 
M Quatremere, Htst<nre dcs sulians manhuks de VEgypte (Psins, 1845), \ol. 1 
(pt I), pp. 149 50. The Mafemil, the markab (litter) of the RuwaUh and the Ark 
ol the Covenant may go back to the same ancient Semitic origin. 

* Theoretically there is no secular war in Islam. 

From Ibrahim Rif '<it. * % Mirci aUljar&ntQp?* 



keep pushing back the geographical wall separating the d&r 
al-islam (the land of Islam) from the dar al-harb (the war 
territory). This bipartite division of the world into an abode of 
peace and an abode of war finds a parallel in the communistic 
theory of Soviet Russia. Of more recent ysars, however, 
jihad has found less support in the Moslem world, chiefly 
because of the fragmentation and lingering of many parts under 
the control of various alien governments considered too strong or 
too benevolent to be overthrown. The last such call to a universal 
uprising against non-Moslems, made as late as the autumn of 
1914 by the Ottoman Sultan-Caliph Muhammad Rashad, proved 
an utter failure. 

Another important article of faith is the belief in the divine 
decree of good and evil (sur. 9:51; 3 : 139; 3$ : a), a dominant 
factor in Moslem thought and conduct throughout the ages. 

The religious obligations (^tbdddf) discussed above constitute 
the fundamentals of Islam. But they are not the only ones 
instituted by koranic prescription. Right-doing {t/isdn) has the 
same authority behind it. The sanctions of private as well as 
public morality in the Moslem world are all of a religious 
character. Basically the will of Allah, as revealed through 
Muhammad, determines what is right (Jialal = permitted, legiti- 
mate) and what is wrong (Jiaram = forbidden). In the historical 
evolution of religion in Arabia, Islam was the first to demand 
personal belief and personal morality (surs. 53 : 39-42, 31 : 32). 
In the realm of ethical conduct it substituted the moral fellow- 
ship of religion for the tribal fellowship of blood kinship. Of the 
human virtues it insists on beneficence, in the form of zakah, 
most urgently. In such passages as 2 : 172; 3 : ioo, 106, 109-11; 
4 :4o; 7 : 31, which stand in favourable comparison with the 
best in the Old Testament (e.g. Amos 5 : 23-4; Hos. 6 : 6; 
Mic. 6 : 6-8), its ethical ideals are clearly set forth* 



Orthodox Caliphs 

1. Abu-Bnkr . . 632-34 

2. *Umar • » . 634-44 

3. 'Uthman * . 644-56 

4. *Ali . . , 656-6! 

As long as Muhammad lived he performed the functions of 
prophet, lawgiver, religious leader, chief judge, commander of 
the army and civil head of the states — all in one. But now 
Muhammad was dead. Who was to be his successor, his khalifah 
(caliph), in all except the spiritual function? In his role as the 
last and greatest prophet, who had delivered the final dispensa- 
tion to mankind, Muhammad evidently could have no one to 
succeed hint. 

The Prophet left nomale children. Only onedaughter, Fatimah, 
the wife of *Ali, survived him. But the Arabian chiefdom or 
sheikhdom was not exactly hereditary; it was more electoral, 
following the line of tribal seniority. So even if his sons had not 
predeceased him, the problem would not have been solved. Nor 
did Muhammad clearly designate a successor. The caliphate 
is therefore the first problem Islam had to face. It is still a 
living issue. In March 1924, sixteen months after cancelling the 
sultanate, the Kemalist Turks abolished the Ottoman caliphate in 
Constantinople held by *Abd-al-MajId II, and since then a num- 
ber of pan-Islamic congresses have met in Cairo and Makkah 
to determine the rightful successor to the Prophet, but all to no 
avail In the words of the distinguished historian of religions, al- 
Shahrastani (f IIS3) : * "Never was there an Islamic issue which 
brought about more bloodshed than the caliphate \imamaky\ 

* As always happens when a serious question is thrown open 
for popular decision, a number of conflicting parties arose 



subsequent to the death of Muhammad. These were on one side 
the Emigrants (muhajiriiti), who based their claim on having 
belonged to the tribe of the Prophet and on having been the 
first to accept his mission. On the other stood the Madlnese 
Supporters(.r4*war),who asserted that had they not given Muham- 
mad and nascent Islam asylum both would have perished. Later 
these two parties coalesced to form the Companions (fafiadah). 
Then came the Legitimists (as/tad al-nass tu-al-tayin), who 
reasoned that Allah and Muhammad could not have left the 
community of believers to the chances and whims of an electorate, 
and therefore must have made clear provision for its leadership 
by designating some particular person to succeed Muhammad. 
'Ali, the paternal cousin of the Prophet, the husband of his only 
surviving daughter and one of the first two or three believers, 
was the one thus designated and the only legitimate successor. 
As against the elective principle, this last party held to the divine 
right of rule. And last but not least came the aristocracy of 
Quraysh, the Umayyads, who held the reins of authority, power 
and wealth in the pre-Islamic days (but who were the last to 
profess Islam) and who later asserted their right to the successor- 
ship. It was abu-Sufyan, their head, who had led the opposition 
to the Prophet until the fall of Makkah. 

The first party triumphed. The aged and pious abu-Bakr, a 
father-in-law of the Prophet and one of the first three or four to 
believe in him, received the oath of allegiance (bayfaJi) from the 
assembled chiefs, probably in accordance with a previously 
arranged scheme between himself, 'Urnar ibn-al-Khattab and 
abu-'Ubaydah ibn-al-Jarrah — the triumvirate who presided over 
the destinies of infant Islam. 

Abu-Bakr headed the list of the four orthodox (rashidiLn) 
caliphs, including c Umar, 'Uthman and 'Ali. This was a period 
in which the lustre of the Prophet's hfe had not ceased to shed its 
light and influence over the thoughts and acts of the caliphs. 
AH four were close associates and relatives of the Prophet. They 
lived in al-Madtnah, the scene of his last ministry, with the 
exception of the last, c Ali, who chose al-Kufah in al-*Iraq for his 

The short caliphate of abu-Bakr (632-4) was mostly occupied 
with the so-called riddah (secession, apostasy) wars. As repre- 
sented by Arab chroniclers ail Arabia outside of al-yijaz, which 


is alleged to have accepted Islam and acknowledged the temporal 
authority of the Prophet, upon his death broke off from the newly 
organized state and followed a number of local and false prophets. 
The fact is that with the lack of communication, the utter 
absence of organized methods of missionary activity and the 
short time involved, not more than one-third of the peninsula 
could actually have professed Islam during the life of the 
Prophet or recognized his rule. Even al-tfijaz, the immediate 
scene of his activity, was not Islamized until a year or two before 
his death. The delegates (wufud) reported to have come to pay 
him homage could not have represented all Arabia, and for a 
tribe to become Moslem in those days simply meant that its chiefs 
so became. 

Many such tribes in al-Yaman, al-Yamamah and *Uman felt 
reluctant to pay the zakah to al-Madinah. The death of the 
Prophet provided the excuse for active refusal. Jealousy against 
the rising hegemony of the Hijaz capital was one of the under- 
lying motives. The old centrifugal forces characteristic of Arabian 
life were once more in full operation. 

Abu-Bakr, however, was adamant in his insistence on un- 
conditional surrender from "the seceders" or war unto destruc- 
tion. 1 Khalid ibn-al-Walld was the hero of these wars. Within 
some six months his generalship had reduced the tribes of 
Central Arabia to submission. First he subjugated the Tayyi*; 
then theAsad andGhatafan, whoseprophet, Talhah,the Moslems 
scoffingly styled Tulayhah; and finally the banu-IJanlfah in 
al-Yamamah, who had gathered under the banner of a prophet 
whose name, Musaylimah, appears derisively in the Arabic annals 
in this diminutive form. It was this Musaylimah who offered 
the most stubborn resistance. He unified his religious and worldly 
interests with Sajah, possibly a Christian, who was the prophetess 
and soothsayer of the banu-Tamim and whom he married; with 
40,000 men at his command, so we are told, he crushed two 
Moslem armies before Khalid arrived with a third. Even from 
among this victorious third Khalid lost enough Koran reciters 
to endanger the perpetuation of the knowledge of the sacred 
book. Other campaigns were conducted by various Moslem 
generals and with varying measures of success 2 in al-Bahrayn, 

1 Baladhuri. p. 94, L 14 = Hitti, p. 143, 1. 23. 
Consult BalSdhuri, pp. 94-107 « Hitti, pp. 143-62. 


r Uman, Hadramawt and al-Yaman, where al-Aswad had been 
acknowledged prophet. Thus most of the rtddah wars were 
directed not so much toward holding secessionists by force — 
which is the view of Arab historians — as toward bringing over 
to Islam many who had until that time been outside the fold. 

The peninsula was now united under abu-Bakr by the sword 
of Khalid. Arabia had to conquer itself before it could conquer 
the world. The momentum acquired in these internal campaigns, 
which transformed Arabia for a number of months after the 
death of the Prophet into an armed camp, had to seek new 
outlets, and the newly acquired technique of organized warfare 
had to be applied somewhere. The warlike spirit of the tribes, 
now brought together into a nominally common fraternity, had 
to find new channels for asserting itself. 

The two cardinal events of late ancient times are the Teutonic 
migrations resulting in the disruption of the venerable Roman 
empire, and the Arab conquests which demolished the Persian 
empire and shook the Byzantine power to its very foundation. Of 
these two, the Arab conquests culminating in the occupation of 
Spain marked the beginning of the Middle Ages. 1 If some- 
one in the first third of the seventh Christian century had 
had the audacity to prophesy that within a decade some un- 
heralded, unforeseen power from the hitherto barbarous and httle- 
known land of Arabia was to make its appearance, hurl itself 
against the only two world powers of the age, fall heir to the one 
— the Sasanid — and strip the other — the Byzantine — of its fairest 
provinces, he would undoubtedly have been declared a lunatic. 
Yet that was exactly what happened. After the death of the 
Prophet sterile Arabia seems to have been converted as if by 
magic into a nursery of heroes the like of whom both in number 
and quality is hard to find anywhere. The military campaigns 
of Khalid ibn-al-Walld and *Amr ibn-al-'As which ensued in al- 
*Iraq, Persia, Syria and Egypt are among the most brilliantly 
executed in the history of warfare and bear favourable comparison 
with those of Napoleon, Hannibal or Alexander." 

The enfeebled condition of the rival Byzantines and Sasanids 
who had conducted internecine wars against each other for many 
generations; the heavy taxes, consequent upon these wars, 
imposed on the citizens of both empires and undermining their 

1 Henri Pirenne, Mahomet et Charlemagne, 7th ed (Brussels, 1935). 


sense of loyalty; the previous domestication of Arabian tribes 
in Syria and Mesopotamia, and particularly along the borders; 
the existence of schisms in the Christian church resulting in the 
establishment of Monophysite communities in Syria and Egypt 
and Nestorian congregations in al- e Iraq and Persia, together 
with the persecution by the orthodox church — all these paved 
the way for the surprisingly rapid progress of Arabian arms. 
The Byzantines had neglected the frontier forts. After their 
victory of Mu*tah, in the land of ancient Moab, over the column 
sent by the Prophet (Sept. 629), Heraclius stopped the subsidies 
which the Syro-Arab tribes south of the Dead Sea and on the 
Madinah-Ghazzah route had regularly received. 1 The native 
Semites of Syria and Palestine as well as the Hamites of Egypt 
looked upon the Arabian newcomers as nearer of kin than their 
hated and oppressive alien overlords. In fact the Moslem con- 
quests may be looked upon as the recovery by the ancient Near 
East of its early domain* Under the stimulus of Islam the East 
now awoke and reasserted itself after a millennium of Western 
domination. Moreover, the tribute exacted by the new conquerors 
was even less than that exacted by the old, and the conquered 
could now pursue their religious practices with more freedom 
and less interference. As for the Arabians themselves, they 
represented a fresh and vigorous stock fired with new enthusiasm, 
imbued with the will to conquer and emboldened by the utter 
contempt of death inculcated by their new faith. But no small 
share of their seemingly miraculous success was due to their 
application of a military technique adapted to the open steppes 
of Western Asia and North Africa— the use of cavalry and 
camefry— -which the Romans never mastered. 

The "clerical* 1 interpretation of the Islamic movement, em- The 
phasized in Arabic sources, makes it entirely or primarily a** 3 * 3 
religious movement and lays no stress on the underlying of 0 
economic causes. The corresponding and equally discredited expj 
hypothesis held by many Christians represents the Arabian 
Moslems as offering the Koran with the <>ne hand and the sword 
with the other. Outside of the Arabian peninsula and especially 
in the instance of the ahl aUHtab (Christians and Jews) there 
was a third and, from the standpoint of the conquerors, more 
desirable choice besides the Koran and the sword— tribute. 
1 T^eophanes, pp. 335-6. 



11 Make war . . . upon such of those to whom the Book has 
been given until they pay tribute offered on the back of their 
hands, in a state of humiliation." 1 This third choice was later 
by the necessity of circumstances offered to Zoroastrians and 
heathen Berbers and Turks; in the case of all of these theory 
gave way to expediency. Islam did provide a new battle-cry, a 
convenient rallying-pointand a party watchword. It undoubtedly 
acted as a cohesive and cementing agency for the hetero- 
geneous masses never before united and furnished a large part 
of the driving force. But it is hardly in itself enough to explain 
the conquests. Not fanaticism but economic necessity drove the 
Bedouin hordes, and most of the armies of conquest were 
recruited from the Bedouins, beyond the confines of their arid 
abode to the fair lands of the north. The passion to go to heaven 
in the next life may have been operative with some, but the 
desire for the comforts and luxuries of the civilized regions of 
the Fertile Crescent was just as strong in the case of many. 

This economic aspect of the interpretation of the conquests, 
worked out by Caetani, 3 Becker 5 and other modern critical 
scholars, was not entirely ignored by the Arab chroniclers of old. 
Al-Baladhuri, the most judicious of the historians of the con- 
quest, declares that in recruiting for the Syrian campaign abu- 
Bakr "wrote to the people of Makkah, ai-Ta if, al-Yaman and 
all the Arabs in Najd and al-IJijaz summoning them to a 'holy 
war* and arousing their desire for it and for the booty to be got 
from the Greeks".* Rustam, the Persian general who defended 
his country against the Arab invasion, made the following remark 
to the Moslem envoy: "I have learned that ye were forced to 
what ye are doing by nothing but the narrow means of liveli- 
hood and by poverty 11 . 5 A verse in the flamdsah of abu-Tam- 
mam e has put the case tersely: 

No, not for Paradise didst thou the nomad life forsake; 
Rather, I believe, it was thy yearning after bread and dates. 

Envisaged in its proper setting, the Islamic expansion marks the 
final stage in the age-long process of gradual infiltration from 

1 Sur. 9 : 29. * Annali, vol. U, pp. 831-61. 

3 In Cambridge Medieval History (New York, 1913), vol. ii, ch. xL 
* Futuk % v 107-Hitti, p. 165. 

1 Baladhuri, pp. 256-7 = Hitti, pp. 4x1-12. 1 P. 795* 

-CH,Xl CONQUEST, .EXPANblOJy AISJU uui-viNi^AiiWAM t 14* 

the barren desert to the adjacent Fertile Crescent, the last great 
Semitic migration. 

* The chroniclers, all of whom viewed the events of the conquest 
in the light of their subsequent developments, would also have 
us believe that these campaigns were conducted through the 
sagacity of the first caliphs, particularly abu-Bakr and *Umar, 
in accordance with carefully prearranged plans. History shows 
but very few cases in which the course of great events was fore- 
seen by those who launched them. Far from being entirely the 
result of deliberate and cool calculation, the campaigns seem to 
have started as raids to provide new oudets for the warring 
-spirit of the tribes now forbidden to engage in fratricidal com- 
bats, the objective in most cases being booty and not the gain- 
ing of a permanent foothold. But the machine so built soon got 
beyond the control of those who built it. The movement acquired 
momentum as the warriors passed from victory to victory. It was 
then that the systematic campaigns began, and the creation of 
the Arab empire followed inevitably. Its creation was therefore 
due less to early design than to the logic of immediate circum- 

The clerical or theological view favouring a providential 
interpretation of Islamic expansion, corresponding to the Old 
Testament interpretation of the Hebrew history and to the 
medieval philosophy of Christian history, has a faulty philo- 
logical basis. The term Islam may be used in three senses: 
originally a religion, Islam later became a state, and finally a 
culture. Unlike Judaism and the old Buddhism, the religion of 
Islam proved as much of an aggressive and missionary religion 
as Christianity* Subsequently it built up a state. The Islam that 
conquered the northern regions was not the Islamic religion but 
thelslamic state. The Arabians burst forth upon an unsuspect- 
ing world as members of a national theocracy. It was Arabianism 
and not Muhammadanism that triumphed first. Not until the 
second and third centuries of the Moslem era did the bulk of 
the people in Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia profess the religion 
of Muhammad* Between the military conquest of these regions 
+ arid their religious conversion alongperiod intervened. And when 
they were converted the people turned primarily because of self- 
Jntercst-^to escape tribute and seek identification with the 
ruling class: As for Islam as a culture, it developed slowly after 



the military conquests on a substratum composed of the core 
and heritage of the Syro-Aramaean, Persian and Hellenistic 
civilizations which had preceded it. With Islam the Near Orient 
not only recaptured the whole of its former political domain but 
regained in the realm of culture its ancient intellectual pre- 


ABOUT the same time that Heraclius, newly hailed deliverer of 
Christendom and restorer of the unity of the Eastern Empire, 
was in Jerusalem reinstalling the true Cross, 1 which had just 
been recovered from the Persians, his troops beyond the Jordan 
reported an attack by an Arabian band which was repelled with 
little difficulty. Mu'tah, on the frontier of al-Baiqa' to the east 
of the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, was the scene of the 
encounter. Zayd ibn-ftarithah, the adopted son of Muhammad, 
was the leader; under him were 3000 men. 2 Zayd lost his life 
in the raid and the newly converted Khalid ibn-al-Walid 
succeeded in leading the remnant of the shattered army back 
to al-Madinah. The ostensible object of the raid was to avenge 
the martyrdom of the Prophet's emissary sent to the Ghassanid 
prince of Busra; the real one was to secure the coveted Mash- 
rafiyah 3 swords manufactured at Mu*tah and neighbouring 
towns with a view to using them in the impending attack on 
Makkah, The event was naturally interpreted as one of the 
ordinary raids to which the settled peoples of the borderland 
had long been accustomed; but actually it was the first gun in a 
struggle that was not to cease until the proud Byzantine capital 
had fallen (1453) to the latest champions of Islam and the 
name of Muhammad substituted for that of Christ on the walls 
of the most magnificent cathedral of Christendom, St. Sophia. 

The Mu'tah engagement was the only campaign against Syria 
in the lifetime of the Prophet. The Tabuk 4 expedition in the 
following year (A.H. 9/630) led by him in person was blood- 
less, though it netted a few Jewish and Christian oases. 

At the conclusion of the Riddah wars in the autumn of 633, 

1 Sept 14, 629, still celebrated tvith bonfire in the Lebanon. 

* Tabari, vol. i, p. 1610. Cf. Theophanes, p. 336. 

5 From Mzsharif cl'Skt?tn f i.e. the highlands overlooking Syria. M. J. de Goeje, 
Minora sur la eenqutte <?c la Sjvit {Leaden, looo), p. 5. 

* W&qiai, pp. 435 Baiadhnri, p. $& « Hitti, p. 93. 




three detachments of about 3000 men each, led respectively 
by 'Amr ibn-al-* A§, Yazid ibn-abi-Sufyan and ShurahbU ibn- 
PJasanah, 1 marched northward and began operations in southern 
and south-eastern Syria. Yazid had as standard bearer his brother 
Mu r awiyah, the future distinguished founder of the Umayyad 
dynasty. Yazid and ShurahbU took the direct Tabuk-Ma'an 
route, whereas *Arnr, who in case of unified action was to be 
commander in chief, took the coast route via Aylah. The numbers 
of each detachment were later augmented to some 7500 men. 
Abu-'Ubaydah ibn-al-Jarrah, soon to become generalissimo, 
probably headed one of the reinforcements and took the famous 
pilgrims 1 route which followed the older transport route from 
al-Madlnah to Damascus. 

In the first encounter, at Wadi al-'Arabah, the great depression 
south of the Dead Sea, Yazid triumphed over Sergius the 
patrician of Palestine, whose headquarters were at Caesarea 
(Qaysarlyah). On their retreat towards Ghazzah the remnant of 
the several thousand Byzantine troops under Sergius were over- 
taken at Dathin and almost annihilated (February 4, 634). In 
other places, however, the natural advantages of the Byzantines 
were telling and the Moslem invaders were being harassed. 
Heraclius, whose ancestral home was Edessa (al-Ruha*) and 
whose six years' campaigning had cleared the Persians from 
Syria and Egypt, hastened from Emesa (rjims) to organize and 
dispatch to the south a fresh army under his brother Theodorus. 

In the meantime Khalid ibn-ai-Walld, "the sword of Allah",* 
who was operating in al-'Iraq at the head of some five hundred 
Riddah veterans in co-operation with the banu-Shayban, a 
subtribe of the Bakr ibn-Wa'ii domiciled on the Persian border, 
was ordered by abu-Bakr to rush to the relief of his fellow generals 
on the Syrian front. Though a minor affair in itself and under- 
taken possibly without the knowledge of the caliph, chrono- 
logically the raid on al- e Iraq stands at the commencement of 
the Moslem military enterprises. But from the standpoint of 
al-Madlnah and al-rjijaz neighbouring Syria was the place 
of chief concern. Before abu-Bakr issued his orders al-rjlrah in 
al-*Iraq had capitulated to Khalid and his ally al-Muthanna ibn- 

1 Cf. aI-Ba?n, Fuiuk a I Skatn, ed. W. N. Lees (Calcutta, 1853-4), pp S-l \ t 40-42. 
* Waqidi, p. 402; ibn 'Asakir, *l*Ta*riih a/-A'a&ir t ed. 'Abd-al-Qadir Badran, 
Tol. v (Damascus, 1332), pp- 92, 10a. 



„ , l&rtztfta fayi* liS end 149 




IJarithah, the chief of the Shay ban Bedouins, for a consideration 
of 60,000 dirhams. This town with its Arab Christian kinglet was 
the earliest acquisition of Islam outside the peninsula and the 
first apple to fall from the Persian tree. *Ayn al-Tamr, a forti- 
fied place in the desert north-west of al-Kufah, had also been 
captured just before the famous march on Syria. 

Khalid 's itinerary through the desert presents many historical Kha 
and geographical problems, for different authors have given us JJJjjjJ 
different routes and conflicting dates. 1 As reconstructed from 
a critical examination of all the sources 2 his march probably 
started from al-rjlrah (March 634) and led westward through 
the desert to the oasis of Dumat 3 al-Jandal (modem al-Jawf), 
situated midway between al-*Iraq and Syria on the easiest route. 
Once in Dumah he could have continued through Wadi al-Sirtjan 
(ancient Batn al-Sirr) to Busra, the first gateway of Syria; but 
forts lay on the way. Therefore Khalid took the north-western 
route from Dumah to Quraqir* on the eastern boundary of 
Wadi Sirhan and thence pushed due northward to Suwa, 6 the 
second gateway of Syria, a journey of five days in an almost 
waterless desert. A certain Rafi* ibn- c Umayr of the TayyT tribe 
acted as guide. Water for the troops was carried in bags; but 
for the horses the paunches of the old camels, later to be 
slaughtered for food, served as reservoirs/ The troops, five to 
eight hundred in all, rode camels; the few horses to be used at 
the time of the encounter were led alongside. At one spot 
RafT, with eyes so dazzled by the rays of the sun reflected from 
the sand that he could not see the expected sign for water, 
besought the men to look for a box-thorn ^awsaj*). As they dug 
near it they struck damp sand whence water trickled forth, to 
the relief of the distressed army. 

With dramatic suddenness Khalid appeared in the neighbour- 
hood of Damascus (Dimashq) and directly in the rear of the 
Byzantine army after only eighteen days* journey. Here he 

* Cf. Baladhuri, pp. 110*125 Ya'qQbi, T<?tikk % vol. ii, pp. 150-51; Tahari» 
vol. i, pp. 2tn-l3, 2121-4; ibn-'As&kir, vol. i, p. 130; ibn^al-Athir, *t-Kdmii 
fi *hT<?fikh % ed, C. J. Tornberg, vol. ii (Leyden, 1867), pp. 31:3-13. 

* Alois Musil, ^rofea Dtttrta (New York, 1927), pp. 553-73. 

* Mentioned in Gen. 25 : 14, Is. « x I l, 
4 Modem Qulban QarSLqir. 

1 Near modem Sab* Biyar (seven wells) north-east of Damascus. 

* Ashnrbsiupal refers to enemy Arabs who "ripped open their riding-camels** 
to quench their thirst; Luckenbill, vol u\ % 837; Musii, Arabic JDeserta, p 570. 


began his marauding expeditions in the course of one of which 
he encountered and defeated the Christian forces of the Ghas- 
sanids at Marj Rahit 1 on their Easter Sunday. Thence Khalid 
continued his triumphal march against Busra (Eski-Sham or Old 
Damascus). Here he evidently succeeded in effecting a junction 
with the other Arabian forces, resulting in the bloody victory at Aj- 
nadayn 2 on July 30, 634, which laid open before them practically 
all Palestine. With the junction of the forces Khalid assumed 
supreme command of the united army. Systematic campaigning 
now began. Busra, one of the Ghassanid capitals, fell without 
much resistance^ Fihl (or Fahl, Gr. Pella), east of the Jordan and 
commanding its crossing, followed suit on January 23, 635. The 
road towards the Syrian metropolis of Damascus was cleared by 
the rout of the enemy at Marj al-Suffar 3 on February 25, 635. Two 
weeks later Khalid stood before the gate of the city reputed by 
tradition to be the oldest in the world and from whose walls 
Paul was let down in a basket on that memorable night of his 
flight. Damascus, soon to become the capital of the Islamic 
empire, surrendered in September 635, after six months' siege, 
through treachery on the part of the civil and ecclesiastical 
authorities, who included the father of the celebrated St. John, 
of whom we shall later hear under the Umayyads. Abandoned 
by the Byzantine garrison, the civilian population of Damascus 
capitulated. The terms served as a model for future arrange- 
ments with the remaining Syro-Palestinian cities* 

In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful. This is what 
Khalid ibn-al-Walid would grant to the inhabitants of Damascus if he 
enters therein: he promises to give them security for their hves, property 
and churches. Their city wall shall not be demolished, neither shall any 
Moslem be quartered in their houses. Thereunto we give to them the pact 
of Allah and the protection of His Prophet, the caliphs and the believers. 
So long as they pay the poll tax, nothing but good shall befall them. 4 

The poll tax was evidently one dinar and one jarlb (measure of 
wheat) on every head, which sum 'Umar ibn-al-Khattab later 
increased. Ba'labakk, yims, rjamah (Epiphania) and other 
towns fell one after the other like ninepins. Nothing stood in 

1 A Ghassanid camp about 15 miles from Damascus, Bear *Adhru\ 

* Not Jannabatayn; see S. D. Goitcin in Journal, American Oriental Society. 
\ol.bcx(i95o),p. 106. 

* A plain 20 miles south of Damascus, * Baladhuri, p. izi %*Hittj, p* J87. 


/A«g*»o j 


The Jonds or Military Districts 


> <o fco 6p to o 


the way of the advancing conqueror. "The people of Shayzar 
[Larissa] went out to meet him accompanied by players on the 
tambourines and singers and bowed down before him." 1 
The In the meantime Heraclius had mustered stn army of some 

b?u\Jcf S 0 * 000 a gain under his brother Theodorus, and was prepared for 
YarmGk a decisive stand. Khalid relinquished for the time being IJims, 
even Damascus and other strategic towns, and concentrated 
some 25,000 men 2 at the valley of Yarmuk,* the eastern tributary 
of the Jordan. Months of skirmishing came to a climax on 
August 20, 636, a hot day clouded by the wind-blown dust 4 of 
one of the most torrid spots on earth and undoubtedly fixed upon 
by Arabian generalship. Before the terrific onslaught of the sons 
of the desert the efforts of the Byzantine troops, aided by the 
chants and prayers of their priests and the presence of their 
crosses, 6 proved of no avail. Those of the Byzantines and their 
Armenian and Arab mercenaries who were not slaughtered on 
the spot were relentlessly driven into the steep bed of the river 
and the Ruqqad valley; the few who managed to escape across 
it were almost annihilated on the other side. Theodorus himself 
fell and the imperial army was converted into a fleeing, panic- 
stricken mob. The fate of Syria was decided. One of the fairest 
provinces was for ever lost to the Eastern Empire. "Farewell 
O Syria, and what an excellent country this is for the enemyl" 1 
were Heraclius 1 words of adieu. 

The turn of the administrator, the pacifier, now came. Abu- 
'Ubaydah, one of the most esteemed Companions and members 
of the Madlnese theocracy and hitherto a contingent leader on 
the Syrian front, was appointed by *Umar governor-general 
and caliphal vice-regent to replace Khalid, against whom 'Umar 
seems to have harboured some personal feeling. Abu-*Ubaydah 
accompanied Khalid northward. No further serious resistance 
stood in the way of the Arabian arms until thej natural limits of 
Syria, the Taurus Mountains, were reached, and no difficulty was 
experienced in reclaiming the cities previously conquered. A 

1 Baladhuri, p. 131 « Hitta, pp. 201-2. 

* Arab estimates of the Byzantine army at 100,000 to 240,000 and of the Moslem 
army at 40,000 are as unreliable as the Greek. Cf. Michel le Syricn, Ckronigue, ed. 
J.-B. Chabot, vol. iv (Pans, 1910), p. 416, tr. Chabot, vol, n (Paris, 1901), p. 421. 

* Near the junction of the Yarmuk and at .Ruqqad. Not to be confused with 
Jarmuth of Josh. io : 3, modern Khtrbat Yarmuk, near Ajn&dayn. 

* See H. R. P Dickson, The Arab of the Desert (London, 1949), pp. 258*62. 

* Basri, p. 197; ibn*\A«5kir, vol. i, p. 163. * Baladhun, p. 137 Hitti, p. ara 


statement attributed to the people of #ims is representative 
of the sentiment cherished by the native Syrians towards th& 
new conquerors: "We like your rule and justice far better than 
the state of oppression and tyranny under which we have been 
living'*. 1 Antioch, Aleppo and other northern towns were soon 
added to the list, Qinnasrln (Chalcis) was the only city that was 
not easily dealt with. In the south only Jerusalem and Caesarea, 
which was strictly Hellenized, held their gates stubbornly closed 
in" the face of the invaders, the former till 638 and the latter 
till October 640. Csesarea received help by sea which the 
Arabians had no means of intercepting, but after seven years of 
intermittent raids and siege it succumbed before the attack of 
Mu'awiyah, aided by the treachery of a Jew within the walls. 
Between 633 and 640 all Syria from south to north was subdued. 
This "easy conquest" * of the land had its own special causes. 
The Hellenistic culture imposed on the land since its conquest by 
Alexander (332 B.C.) was only skin-deep and limited to the urban 
population. The rural people remained ever conscious of cultural 
and racial differences between themselves and their masters. This 
racial antipathy between the Semitic population of Syria and the 
Greek rulers was augmented by sectarian differences. The Mono- 
physite church of Syria insisted that Christ had but one nature 
instead of the two (divine and human) formulated by the Synod 
of Chalcedon (4$i) and accepted by the Greek church of Byzan- 
tium. The christological compromise of Heraclius, promulgated 
in 638 on the basis of a formula devised by Sergius 3 the patriarch 
of Constantinople, aimed at ignoring the question of the nature 
or natures in the person of Christ and emphasizing his one will 
(thilma). Hence the name Monothelite for a Christian who 
f accepted the new formula. Like other religious compromises this 
one neither pleased the orthodox nor satisfied the dissenters. 
Instead it resulted in the creation of a third problem and a new 
party. But the bulk of the population of Syria remained Mono- 
, physite. Behind their development and maintenance of a separate 
» Syrian church there undoubtedly lay a submerged, semi-articu- 
late feeling of nationality. 

' Just before the fall of Jerusalem the Caliph r Umar came to the 

1 * BalSdhun, p. 137, h 13 - Kitti , p t jn. 
«* BnlldhuH, p. no. 1. 18. p. 126, U. 13, i 9 =Hitti, p. m. 1. 17> p. 103, L 33 # 

• A Syrian of Jacobite lineagd. 


military camp of al-Jabiyah, which lay north of the Yarmuk 
battlefield and whose name is still borne by the western gate of 
Damascus; his purpose was to solemni7e the conquest, fix the 
status of the conquered, consult with his generalissimo, abu- 
'Ubaydah, whom he had substituted for Khahd after the Yarmuk 
battle, and lay down necessary regulations for the administration 
of the newly acquired territory. When Jerusalem fell it too was 
visited by "Umar. As the patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, 
styled the "honey-tongued defender of the church", was showing 
the aged caliph round the holy places he was so impressed by 
the uncouth mien and shabby raiment of his Arabian visitor 
that he is said to have turned to an attendant ^nd remarked in 
Greek, "Truly this is the abomination of desolation spoken of by 
Daniel the Prophet as standing in the holy place* 1 . 1 

Soon abu-'Ubaydah fell victim at 'Amwas (or 'Amawas) to 
an epidemic which is said to have carried off 20,000 of his 
troops, and after the death of his successor, Yazld, the power 
passed to the hands of the shrewd Mu'awiyah. 

Syria was now divided into four murtary districts (smg.jwni) 
corresponding to the Roman and Byzantine provinces found at 
the time of the conquest. These were: Dimashq, Hims, al- 
Urdunn (Jordan) comprising Galilee to the Syrian desert, and 
Filastln (Palestine), the land south of the great plain of Esdraelon 
(Marj ibn- c Amir). The northern district, Qinnasrin, was added 
later by the Umayyad Caliph Yazid I. 

So swift and easy an acquisition of so strategic a territory 
from the first potentate of the age gave the newly rising power 
of Islam prestige in the eyes of the world and, what is more 
important, confidence in its own destiny. From Syria the hordes 
swept into Egypt and thence made their triumphant way through 
the rest of northern Africa. With Syria as a base the onward 
push to Armenia, northern Mesopotamia, Georgia and Adhar- 
bayjan became possible, as did the raids and attacks which for 
many years to come were to be carried on against Asia Minor. 
With the help of Syrian troops Spain in far-off Europe was in 
less than a hundred years from the death of the Prophet brought 
within the ever widening circle of Islam. 

s Theophanes,p.339,Constantme Porphyrogenitus, "Deadjflimstrandoimpeno", 
in J. -P. Migne, Patrologia Graca % vol. cxin (Pans, l $64), col. 109, Dan 11 : 31. 
Sophronius was probacy of Maroaite origin. 


WHEN Khalid in 634 made his memorable dash westward from 
al-Hirah he left the 'Iraq front in the hands of his Bedouin ally 
al-Muthanna ibn-rjarithah, sheikh of the banu-Shayban. In the 
meantime the Persians were preparing a counter-attack and suc- 
ceeded an almost annihilating the Arabian bands at the Battle 
of the Bridge 1 near al-rjfrrah, November 26, 634. Undaunted, 
al-Muthanna undertook a new raid and in October or November 
of the following year scored over the Persian general Mihran a 
victory at al-Buwayb on the Euphrates. But al-Muthanna was 
no more than a Bedouin chief, with no Madlnese or Makkan 
connections, and had not heard of or accepted Islam until after 
the death of the Prophet. The Caliph f Umar therefore chose 
Sa'd ibn-abi- Waqqa> , one of those Companions promised Paradise 
by Muhammad at the conclusion of the Battle of Badr, as com- 
mander in chief and sent him at the head of new reinforcements 
to al- Iraq. By thai time the victory ot Yarmuk had been won 
and the fate of Syria sealed Sa r d with his r 0,000 men measured 
his strength for the first time with the Persian Rustam, the 
administrator of the empire, at al-QadisIyah, not far from al- 
rjirah. The day (the last of May or first of June 637) was 
extremely hot and was rendered dark by the wind-blown dust, 
a day not unlike that on which the battle of Yarmuk was fought. 
The same tactics were used with the same results. Rustam was 
killed, the large Sasanid army dissolved in panic and all the 
fertile lowlands of al-* Iraq 2 west of the Tigris (Dijlah) lay open 
to the invaders. The welcome on the part of the Aramaean 
peasants was no less cordial than that tendered by the Syrian 
peasants, and for much the same reasons, The Semitic 'Iraqis 

* Across the Euphrates. BaMhuri, pp. 251*2; Tabari, vol. i, pp. 2194-2201, 

* frty* probably a loan-word from Pahkwi meaning "lowland'*, corresponds to 
"&r Sczc£d t black land, used to bang out the contrast with the Arabian desert 

\ Y*tytt 4 vd. ia # j>. t74-cf A.T*O\msU:ik& t &iiUry0fJsvTtaQXmYork> 1927), p 6a 



looked upon the Iranian masters as aliens and felt closer kin- 
ship with the newcomers. As Christians they had not been 
especially favoured by the followers of Zoroaster. For centuries 
before Islam petty Arab chieftains and kinglets had flourished 
on the 'Iraq-Arabian border. The Arab control of the valley of 
the two rivers was anticipated by intimate relations with its 
peoples dating to the early Babylonian era, by growing acquaint- 
ance with its culture and by the admixture of border Bedouins 
with its inhabitants. As in the case of Syria after Yannuk an 
influx of fresh Arabian tribes, attracted by the new economic 
advantages, took place into the newly conquered territory. 

The Persian capital, Ctesiphon, 1 was Sa'd's next objective. 
With characteristic dash and energy he pushed ahead and at a 
convenient ford effected the crossing of the Tigris, much swollen 
by the spring floods. The feat was accomplished without loss 
of life to the army and was hailed as a miracle by Moslem 
chroniclers. In June 637 Sa'd made his triumphal entry into the 
capital whose garrison together with the emperor had deserted it. 
Arab chroniclers outdo themselves in their extravagant descrip- 
tion of the booty and treasures captured therein. Their estimate 
is nine billion dirharns.* 

The occupation of the greatest royal city in hither Asia brought 
the sons of barren Arabia into direct contact with the luxuries 
and comforts of the then modern high life. The Twan Kisra, the 
royal palace with its spacious audience chamber, graceful arches 
and sumptuous furnishings and decorations — all celebrated in 
later Arabic poetry — was now at the disposal of Sa'd. Amusing 
as well as instructive are some of the anecdotes embedded in the 
Arabic chronicles which throw light upon the comparative cul- 
ture of the two peoples. Camphor, never seen before, was 
naturally taken for salt and used as such in cooking. 3 'The 
yellow" (al-safra, i.e. gold), something unfamiliar in Arabia, 
was offered by many in exchange for "the white" (al-bayda\ 
silver). 4 When an Arabian warrior at al-ftlrah was blamed for 

1 Arabic al-Mada* m, literally the cities, which included Seleuda and Ctesiphon 
on either side of the Tigris some 20 miles south-east of Baghdad. 

* Taban, vol. i, p. 2436; cf. ibn-al-Athlr, vol. ii, p. 400, Caetani, Annah, vol. Hi, 
pp. 742*6. 

3 Ibn-aj-Tiqtaqa, al-Fakkriy ed. H, Derenbourg (Paris, 1895), P- "4« 

* Fakhri, p. 115; tr. C. E. J. Whit ting (tondon, 1947)1 P- 79 Cf. al*Dmawari,<:/« 
Akhbdr al-Tiwalt ed. V. Guirgass (Lcyden, 18S8), p. 134. 


selling a nobleman's daughter who fell as his share of booty for 
only iooo dirhams, his reply was that he "never thought there 
was a number above ten hundred", 1 

After al-Qadisiyah and al-Mada*in the systematic conquest 
of the empire began from the newly founded military base at 
al-Basraiu By express command of the caliph the military camp 
of al-Kufah, near older al-SIrah, was to be the capital in prefer- 
ence to Ctesiphon, where Sa r d had built one of the first Moslem 
places of worship in al-'Iraq, 

In the meantime the Sasanid Yazdagird III and his imperial 
court were fleeing northward. Another futile stand (end of 637) 
at Jalula* on the fringe of the Persian highlands and all of 
al-*Iraq lay prostrate at the feet of the conquerors. In 641 al- 
Maw§il (Mosul), near the site of ancient Nineveh, was reached 
and captured. This brought to a successful culmination the 
expedition which was started from northern Syria by *Iyad ibn- 
Ghanm. In the same year the last great battle, that of Nihawand 
(near ancient Ecbatana), was fought, with a nephew of Sa*d 
leading the Arabian forces, and resulted in a disastrous defeat 
of the last remnant of Yazdagird's army. Khuzistan (ancient 
Elam, later Susiana, modern *Arabistan) was occupied tn 640 
from al*Ba§rah and al*Kufah. In the meantime an attempt was 
made on the adjoining province of Pars (Faris, Persia proper). 3 
on the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf, from al-Bahrayn, which 
with al-Basrah and al-Kufah formed now a third military base of 
operation against Iran. The stiffening resistance of the non- 
Semitic population was finally broken by 'Abdullah ibn- f Amir, 
the governor of al-Basrah, who occupied Istakhr (Persepolis), 
the chief city of Faris, in 649-50.* After Faris the turn of the 
great and distant province of Khurasan, in the north-east, came; 
the path then lay open to the Oxus. The subjection of Mukran, 
the coastal region of Baluchistan, shortly after 643 brought the 
Arabs to the very borders of India* 

As early as 640 an attempt was made on Byzantine Armenia 
"* by e Iyad. About four years later an expedition set out from Syria 

1 Bal&dhuri> p. 244 = Hitti, p, 3Q2; cf. Fakhn, pp. 114-15. 

* The Persian* called their country Iran, of which Pars (the home of its two 
greatest dynasties, the Achaemenid and tht Sasamd) was but the southern province. 
The Greeks corrupted old Pers, P&rsa to /Vmrand used it for the whole kingdom. 

J See Tabati vol. i, pp -2545-51; Caetaai, vol. iv ( pp 151-3, vol v, pp. 19-27. 
votvii ( rjp,aio-2o,2i48*56\ ' " ~ 




under the leadership of yabib ibn-Maslamah, but the district 
was not completely reduced till about 652. 1 

The military camp al-Kufah became the capital of the newly 
conquered territories. Heedless of f Umar's insistence on the old- 
fashioned simplicity characteristic of al-ftijaz, Sa*d erected here 
a residence modelled on the royal palace of Ctesiphon. The gates 
of the old capital were transported to the new, a symbolic 
custom practised repeatedly in the Arab East Built first of reeds 
as barracks to house the soldiers and their families, the camp 
exchanged its huts for unbaked brick houses and soon grew into 
an important metropolis. Along with its sister camp al-Basrah, 
al-Kufah became the political and intellectual centre of Arab 
Mesopotamia until the 'Abbasid al-Mansur built his world- 
famous city, Baghdad. 

In 651 the young and ill-starred Yazdagird, fleeing with his 
crown, treasures and a few followers, fell victim to the greed of 
one of his own people in a miller's hut near Marw (Pers. Marv), 8 
With his death there came to an ignoble end the last ruler of an 
empire that had flourished with one interruption for some twelve 
centuries, an empire that was not fully to rise again for eight 
hundred years or more. 

This initial and inconclusive conquest of Persia took about a 
decade to achieve; the Moslem arms met with much more 
stubborn resistance than in Syria. In the campaign some 
35,000-40,000 Arabians, inclusive of women, children and slaves, 
must have taken part. The Persians were Aryans, not Semites; 
they had enjoyed a national existence of their own for centuries 
and represented a well-organized military power that had been 
measuring swords with the Romans for over four hundred years. 
Jn the course of the following three centuries of Arab rule Arabic 
became the official language as well as the speech of cultured 
society and, to a limited extent, of ordinary parlance. But the 
old spirit of the subject nation was to rise again and restore its 
neglected tongue. Persia contributed a large share of the Qar- 
matian (Carmathian) movement which for many years shook 
the caliphate to its foundation; it also had much to do with the 
development of the Shl'ite sect and with the founding of the 
Fatimid dynasty which ruled Egypt for over two centuries. Its 

1 Consult Baladhuri, pp. 193-212; Cactam, vol. iv, pp. 50-53, vol. vu, pp. 453-4. 
J Cf. Michd ie Syrfcn, vol. iV, p. 418-voL it, p. 424. 

, - azrxat? * AL- tRAQ AND PERSIA CONQUERED * * J "159 

art,its literature, its philosophy, its medicine, became the common 
property of the Arab world and conquered the conquerors. Some 
of the most brilliant stars in the intellectual firmament of Islam 
during its first three centuries were Islamized Iranians. 

While this column of Arabian troops was operating eastward 
under 3a*d another under the more illustrious e Amr ibn-al- 
*As was operating to the west. The latter was bringing within 
the horns of the rising crescent the people of the valley of the 
Nile and the Berbers of North Africa. Ostensibly religious, but 
mainly political and economic, this unparalleled Arabian expan- 
sion had no# grown into an empire as far flung as that of 
Alexander, with the caliph at al-Madinah trying to regulate the 
flow of a torrent whose tributaries, ever increasing in number and 
size, were swelling the stream beyond all control. 


THE strategic position of Egypt, lying so dangerously near to 
both Syria and al-IJijaz, the richness of its grain-producing soil, 
which made the land the granary of Constantinople, the fact that 
its capital Alexandria was the base of the Byzantine navy and 
that the country was the door to the rest of the North African 
corridor — all these considerations caused Arabian eyes to turn 
covetously towards the valley of the Nile quite early in the era 
of expansion. 

The conquest of Egypt falls within the period of systematic 
campaigning rather than casual raiding- Seeking new fields in 
which to outshine his illustrious rival Khahd, *Amr ibn-al-'As, 
who in the Jahillyah days had made many a caravan trip to 
Egypt and was familiar with its cities and roads, 1 took advantage 
of the presence of *Umar in Jerusalem to secure his half-hearted 
authorization for a campaign against the ancient land of the 
Pharaohs. But when 'Urnar had returned to al-Madinah and 
consulted with r Uthman and others who pointed out the risks 
and perils involved, he dispatched a messenger to halt the 
advance of the column. The cahphal message, we are told, over- 
took c Amr just before crossing the Egypt-Palestine border, but, 
scenting the unfavourable contents thereof and having in mind 
'Umar's previous instructions: "If my letter ordering thee to 
turn back from Egypt overtakes thee before entering any part 
of it then turn back; but if thou enter the land before the receipt 
of my letter, then proceed and solicit Allah's aid", 2 *Amr did 
not open the letter until he got to al-'Arlsh (December 639). 
This e Amr was a Qurayshite, forty-five years old, warlike, fiery, 
eloquent and shrewd. He had already to his credit the conquest 
of Palestine west of the Jordan. The part he was later to play 

1 lbn-*Abd*al-tf akam, Futvk Aft?r, ed C. C. Torrey (New Haven, 1922), p 53 
1 Ya'qubi, voL h, pp. 16S 9, cf ibn-'Abd al-Hakam, pp 56 7, J. Wellhausen, 

SJhtm und Vorarbaten, voL \l, Prolegomena rur BUesien Gtschicht* des Islam 

(Berlin, 1899), p 93* 


* ch.xiv"egypt, tripolis and barqah ACQUIRED - i6f 

in the capture of the caliphate for his bosom friend Mu*awiyah 
won him the epithet "one of the four Arabian 'political geniuses* 
[dtth&t] of Islam", 1 The route he took with his 4000 riders 
was the same beaten track along the coast trod by Abraham, 
Cambyses, Alexander, Antiochus, the Holy Family, Napoleon 
and Djemal Pasha. It was the international highway of the 
ancient world connecting its most important centres of civiliza- 
tion. 2 

The first fortified place which the Arabian column struck — 
and that in the middle of January 640 s — was al-Farama* 
(Pelusium), the key to eastern Egypt. After about a month of 
resistance the city fell and its defences, probably not repaired 
since the recent Persian invasion (616) and occupation, were 
razed. Bilbays (variants Bilbls, Balbls) north-east of Cairo came 
next, and others followed suit. At last the strong- castle of 
Babylon 4 (Babalyun), across trom the isle of al-Raw<Jah in the 
Nile, stood in the way of further progress. Cyrus (Ar. al- 
Muqawqis), who since the reoccupation of the country in 631 
by Heraclius had been acting as patriarch of Alexandria and 
imperial representative in civil administration, hurried to Baby- 
lon with his commander in chief the Augustalis Theodorus 
and the troops. * Amr pitched camp outside Babylon, biding his 
time and awaiting reinforcements* Soon they came, headed by 
al-Zubayr ibn-al-*Awwam, the celebrated Companion of the 
Prophet, thus augmenting the Arabian column to about 
10,000 men who were to oppose the 20,000 or so of the Byzan- 
tine army exclusive of the fortress garrison numbering about 
5000. While besieging Babylon, *Amr attacked *Ayn Shams 8 
in July 640* The Byzantine army was utterly routed. Theo- 
dorus fled to Alexandria and Cyrus was shut up in Babylon. 
The siege was pressed by the Arabians, who had no engineering 
or mechanical devices for reducing the fort. The treacherous 
Cyrus secretly sought to buy off the besiegers, but to no avail. 
The usual three choices were offered: Islam, tribute or the sword. 

1 Ibn-Hajar, al-Is&bah fi Tamyit al-gakabah, vol. v (Cairo, 1 907), p. 3. 

* Set Olmstead, History of Palestine, pp. 44-8, 

This as well as the other dates of the conquest of Egypt are not certain, labari, 
vol. i, A p. 2593, 1 16, chooses Rabr I, 16 (Ap. 637) as the date of the conquest of 
cf. ibn-*Abd-al-FInkarn, pp. 53, 58. 

* See A. J. Butler, The Arab Conqtust of Egypt (Oxford, 1002), pp. 245-7. 

' *!f t C lhe sprinE of Ac imn "> ancicnt Hdiopotfc, On (On) of the Old Testament 
and the hieroglyphic inscriptions. 


The foHowing words put in the mouth of Cyrus* envoys purport 
to sum up the impression created by the Arabians: 

We have witnessed a people to each and every one of whom death is 
preferable tohfe, and humility to prominence, and to none of whom this 
world has the least attraction. They sit not except on the ground, and 
eat naught but on their knees. Their leader [amtr] is like unto one of 
them: the low cannot be distinguished from the high, nor the master 
from the slave. And when the time of prayer comes none of them 
absents himself, all wash their extremities and humbly observe their 
prayer. 1 

Asking for a delegation to meet him at al-Rawdah to negotiate 
peace, Cyrus was shocked to receive one headed by a negro, 
*Ubadah ibn-al-Samit. The three alternatives were reiterated. 
Cyrus agreed to pay tribute and hastened to Alexandria to 
forward the terms to the emperor. They were not pleasing to 
Heraclius, who charged his episcopal viceroy with treason and 
sent him into exile. 

In the meantime the siege of Babylon was being carried on 
without intermission. At the end of seven months al-Zubayr 
with his comrades succeeded in filling a part of the moat, scaling 
the wall on a ladder and overpowering the guard as well as the 
garrison. The battle-cry of Islam, Allahu akbar (God is most 
great), echoed victoriously in the halls of the fortress on April 6, 

After reducing the eastern border of the Delta the iron grip 
of * Amr began to fasten itself on the apex, Nikiu (An Naqyu3, 
modem Shabshlr) fell on May 13 and a bloody slaughter ensued. 
But Alexandria (al-Iskandarlyah), after Constantinople the finest 
and strongest city in the world, was still ahead. 

With fresh recruits from Arabia swelling his army to about 
20,000 *Amr found himself one morning gazing at the seemingly 
impregnable line of walls and towers guarding Egypt's capital 
and leading port. On one side rose the lofty Serapeum, 3 which 
once housed the temple of Serapis and the great library of 
Alexandria; on the other loomed the beautiful cathedral of 
St* Mark, once the Caesarion* temple begun by Cleopatra in 

*> Jbn- f Abd-al>Hakam, p. 65, 

* Bal3dhuri,p. 213= Hmi 4 p. 336; ibn-*Abd-aHfakam, pp. 61 uq> 
5 Called later by the Arabs *Am&d a!«Sa*£ri, from Diocletian's pillar which etOl 
mark* the spot. Maqrfcri, Mauri* *d. Wiet, vol. in, pp. 128 ssg. 
. * The Qaysarisah of the Arabs. Ibn-'Abd-al-tfakam, pp. 41, 45. 


honour of Julius Csesar and finished by Augustus; farther west 
stood the two red Uswan(Aswan)~granite needles ascribed to 
Cleopatra, but in reality the work of Thutmose III (ca. 1450 B.C.), 
the same two which now adorn the Thames Embankment in 
London and Central Park in New York; and in the background 
towered the Pharos, flashing the sun's rays by day and its own 
fire by night and rightly considered one of the seven wonders 
of the world. 1 No doubt to the desert Arabs the impression of 
such a sight must have been not unlike that which the skyline of 
modern New York, with its towering skyscrapers, makes upon 
the immigrant. 

Alexandria boasted a garrison some 50,000 strong. Behind 
it lay the whole strength of the Byzantine navy, of which the city 
was the base. The invaders, far inferior in number and in 
equipment, had not a single ship, no siege machines and no 
immediate source of supply for their man-power. 

John of Nikiu, a contemporary authority, describes the first 
repulse the helpless Arabians suffered under the pounding of 
catapults from the high walls. 8 Leaving a contingent behind, 
# Amr fought his way back to Babylon and later engaged in a ' 
few marauding expeditions to Upper Egypt. After the death of 
Heraclius (February 641) his grandson Constans II (Qustantln, 
641-68) succeeded Cyrus, restored to favour, returned to Alex- 
andria in order to conclude peace. Hoping to administer the 
country for the Arabians independently of Constantinople, the 
bishop signed with 'Amr in Babylon on November 8, 641, a 
treaty which may be termed the Treaty of Alexandria, accept- 
ing the payment of a fixed tribute of two dinars per adult head 
and a land tax payable in kind and agreeing not to allow a 
Byzantine army to return or attempt to recover the land. The 
city was evacuated in September 642. The Emperor Constans, 
weak and young, ratified the treaty which meant the transference 
of one of the fairest provinces of the empire to Arabian hands. 

The glad tidings were sent to f Umar in al-Madlnah in the 
following words: "I have captured a city from the description of 
which I shall refrain. Suffice it to say that I have seized therein 
4000 villas with 4000 baths, 40,000 poll-tax-paying Jews and 

1 Stc Maqrizi, vol. m, pp. 113-43, Suvuti, ffusn, vol i, pp 43-5. 
* H Zotenberg, Chrontque de Jean, iviqut ds Nxktou. Tcxte itkiopun f with 
translation (Pans, 1883), p 450, 


four hundred places of entertainment for the royalty," 3 The 
caliph entertained his general's messenger with bread and dates 
and held in the Prophet's Mosque a simple but dignified service 
of thanksgiving. 

The native Copts of Egypt, we are informed by ibn-*Abd- 
al-^akam 2 (f 257-871), who gives us the earliest surviving 
account of the conquest of Egypt, were instructed from the very 
beginning by their bishop in Alexandria to offer no resistance to 
the invaders. This is not surprising in view of the religious per- 
secution to which they as Monophysites had been subjected by 
the official Meikite (royal) church. For years Heraclius had tried, 
through his agent Cyrus, to forbid the Egyptian (Coptic) form 
of worship and to force his new Monothelite doctrine on a 
reluctant church. On account of his relentless persecution of the 
priesthood of the Coptic church Cyrus was regarded as the 
Antichrist by the later native tradition. 

In accordance with 'Umar's policy the site on which 'Amr 
pitched his camp outside Babylon became the new capital, receiv- 
ing the name al-Fusta{ ? and corresponding to the military camps 
of al-Jabiyah in Syria, al-Basrah and al-Kufah in al-*Iraq. There 
"Amr erected a simple mosque, the first to rise in Egypt (641-2), 
which has survived in name until today and whose present form 
is the result of repeated rebuildmgs and additions. Al-Fustat 
(Old Cairo, Misr al-'AtJqah) continued to be the capital until 
the Fatimids in 969 built their Cairo (al-Qahirah). In order to 
open a direct waterway to the holy cities of Arabia f Amr now 
cleared the ancient Pharaonic canal which under the name 
Khalij (canal of) Amir al-Mu'minln passed through Heiiopohs 
and connected the Nile north of Babylon w th al-Qulzum 4 on the 
Red Sea, 5 Trajan had cleared the canal, but through neglect it 
had silted up since his reign. After a few months of forced labour, 
and before the death of *Umar m 644, twenty ships laden with 
Egyptian products were unloading their cargoes in Arabian 
ports. 0 This canal was later known as al-Khallj aM^akimi, after 
the Fatimid Caliph al -Hakim (f 102 1), and under many other 
names continued to exist in some parts till the end of the nine* 
teenth century. 

1 IWAbd-al-HaUm, p 82, cf. Zotenoerg, p 463. * Pp 58 o. 

* latm/^«c/tf?»«ca«)p, through By*. X*t. phossatun. 
J The Kly^ma of antiquity, modern Suez, 
Cf. Mas'udi, vol* it, p. 99, • Ya'qubi, vol ii, p. 177. 

The old machinery of Byzantine administration, including the 
financial system, was — as one might expect — adopted by the 
new rulers with certain amendments in the line of centralization. 
The time-honoured policy of exploiting the fertile valley of the 
Nile and using it as a "milch cow" was maintained to the utmost, 
judging by the evidence furnished by newly discovered Egyptian 
papyri. Shortly before his death 'Umar, feeling that , Amr was 
not securing enough revenue, put 'Abdullah ibn-Sa r d ibn-abi- 
Sarh in charge of Upper Egypt. The new caliph, 'Uthman, 
recalled e Amr from the country and appointed (ca. 645) 'Ab- 
dullah, who was his own foster brother, over all Egypt, 

Toward the end of 645 the Alexandrians, restive under the 
new yoke, appealed to the Emperor Constans, who dispatched 
some 300 ships under Manuel, an Armenian, to reclaim the 
city. 1 The Arabian garrison of 1000 men was slaughtered and 
Alexandria was once more in Byzantine hands and a base for 
new attacks on Arab Egypt* 'Amr was immediately reinstated. 
He met the enemy near Nikiu, where the Byzantines suffered a 
heavy slaughter. Early in 646 the second capture of Alexandria 
took place* The impregnable walls of the city were demolished 
and the ancient Egyptian capital has ever since remained in 
Moslem hands. 

The story that by the caliph's order 'Amr for six long months 
fed the numerous bath furnaces of the city with the volumes of 
the Alexandrian library is one of those tales that make good 
fiction but bad history. The great Ptolemaic Library was burnt 
as early as 48 B.C. by Julius Caesar. A later one, referred to as 
the Daughter Library, was destroyed about A.D. 389 as a 
result of an edict by the Emperor Theodosius. At the time of 
the Arab conquest, therefore, no library of importance existed 
in Alexandria and no contemporary writer ever brought the 
charge against 'Amr or 'Umar. r Abd-al-LatIf al-Baghdadi, 2 who 
died as late as A.H. 629 (1231), seems to have been the first to 
relate the tale. Why he did it we do not know, however, his 
version was copied and amplified by later authors. 3 

1 Baladhuri, p. 221-= Hitti, pp. 347-S. 

* Al-Ijadah wahVttbar > ed. and tr. (Latin) J. White (Oxford, 1800), p. 114. 

* Al-Qifti, Tc % rtkh al-ffukatnd % 9 cd. J. Lippcrt (Leip2ig, 1903), pp. 355*6; abu- 
aUFaraj ibn-al«*lbn, Tctrikh Mukhta$ar ah Du-mai \ ed. A. Sahfcini (Beirut, 1890), 
pp. 175*6, Maqrizi, \ol ni, pp. 129*30. Consult Butler, pp. 401-26; Gibbon, Dtchne t 
cd. Bury, vol. v ,pp. 452-5. 


After the conquest 'Uthman wanted 'Amr to remain at the, 
head of the army with 'Abdullah as the financial administrator. 
The suggestion elicited from r Amr the famous reply: "My 
position will then be that of one who holds the cow by its two 
horns while another milks it 1 '. 1 'Abdullah was thereupon rein- 
stalled as caliphal vicegerent* 

Less a soldier than a financier, 'Abdullah now proceeded to 
carry on campaigns to the west and south mainly for booty. 
He succeeded in extending the boundaries in both directions. 
But his greatest performance was his part in the establish- 
ment of the first Moslem fleet, an honour which he shares 
with Mu'awiyah, the governor of Syria. Alexandria was natur- 
ally the main dockyard for the Egyptian fleet. The maritime 
operations, whether from Egypt under 'Abdullah or from Syria 
under Mu'awiyah, were directed against the Byzantines. In 649 
Mu'awiyah seized Cyprus (Qubrus), another .important Byzan- 
tine naval base too dangerously close to the Syrian coast for 
comfort. The first maritime victory was thus won for Islam and 
the first island was added to the Moslem state. Arwad (Aradus), 
close by the Syrian coast, was captured the following year. In 
652 'Abdullah repulsed the superior Greek fleet off Alexandria. 
Two years later Rhodes was pillaged by one of Mu'awiyah's 
captains,* In 655 s the Syro-Egyptian fleet of Mu'awiyah and 
'Abdullah destroyed the Byzantine navy of about 500 ships off 
the Lycian coast near Phoenix. The Emperor Cons tans II, who 
led the fight in person, barely escaped with his life. This battle, 
known in Arabic as dhu-al-Sawari * (that of the masts), threatened 
but did not destroy Byzantine naval supremacy. 5 Because of in- 
ternal disorders the Moslems failed to press their victory and 
advance against Constantinople, the chief objective. In 668 or 
669 a navy of 200 ships from Alexandria ventured as far as Sicily 
(Siqilliyah, Siqilllyah) and pillaged it. The island had been 
sacked at least once before (652) under Mu'awiyah. 6 In 
Mu'awiyah and 'Abdullah Islam developed its first two admirals. 7 

That these naval expeditions were carried on almost in spite 

* An* Abd^»Qakiun, p, 178; cf. Baladhuri, p. 223=Hitti, p. 351. 

1 A later expedition in A.H. 52 (672) is cited in Baladhuri, pp. 235-6 = Hitri, 
PP;375-6> * Cf. C. H. Becker, art. * f *Abd Allah B. SaM", Encyclopaedia *J Isldru 

* Ibn- Abd-aHlalctun, pp . 18^91. * Cf. below, p. 602. 
Baladhuri, p. *35=Hitti, p, 375. 

* The details about the naval operations of the period, however, arc lamentably 
meagre m Arabic sources. 



of, rather than in co-operation with, the Madinese caliphs is 
indicated by significant passages in the early sources. *Umar 
wrote instructing 'Amr in Egypt: "Let no water intervene be- 
tween me and thee, and do not camp in any place which I can- 
not reach riding on my mount". 1 *Uthman authorized Mu*awi- 
yah's expedition to Cyprus, after the latter had repeatedly 
emphasized the proximity of the island, only on condition that 
he take his wife along. 1 

The fall of Egypt left the Byzantine provinces bordering on 
its west defenceless; at the same time the continued occupation 
of Alexandria necessitated the conquest of those provinces. After 
the first fall of Alexandria and in order to protect his rear, 
•Amr, with characteristic swiftness, pushed (642-3) at the head of 
his cavalry westward to the neighbouring Pentapolis and occupied 
Barqah without any resistance* He also received the submission 
of the Berber tribes of Tripolis, including the Lawatah. 3 His 
successor, 'Abdullah, advanced through Tripolis and subjugated 
a part of Ifriqiyah whose capital Carthage (Qartajannah) paid 
tribute. 4 *Uthman extended even to the pagan Berbers, not 
within the category of Scripturaries, the same privileges as those 
of the Dhimmah. Attempts were also made on Nubia (al- 
Nubah) in the south, which with its pasturage was more like 
Arabia and better adapted than Egypt to a nomadic mode of 
life. For centuries before Islam a more or less continual Arabian 
infiltration into Egypt and even into the Sudan had been going 
on. In 652 'Abdullah entered into treaty relations with the 
Nubians, 6 who were then far from being subdued. For centuries 
to come the Christian kingdom of Nubia, with Dongola as its 
capital and with a mixed population of Libyans and negroes, 
stood as a barrier against the farther southward onrush of Islam. 

1 Ya'qQbi, vol. «, p. 180. Fakhri, p. 114, reports that 'Uroar wrote to Sa'd ibn- 
abi-Waqqas in al-*Iruq asking him to let 110 sea intervene between the caliph and the 

* Baladhuri, pp. 1 52-3 « Hitti, pp. 235-6. * Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. 179. 

* Ibn-'Abd-al-Hakam, p. 183. 

* Baladhuri, pp. 237-8 » Hitti, pp. 370-81 


How to administer such vast territories newly acquired and how 
to adapt the uncodified ordinances of a primitive Arabian 
society to the needs of a huge cosmopolitan conglomerate living 
under a multitude of conditions uncontemplated by the original 
lawgiver was the great task now confronting Islam. 'Urnar was 
the first to address himself to this problem. He is represented by 
tradition as the one who solved it and therefore as the founder 
of the second theocracy of Islam — a sort of Islamic Utopia — 
which, however, was not destined to last long. 

*Umar made his starting-point the theory that in the peninsula *Ui 
itself none but the Moslem religion should ever be tolerated. To 
this end and in utter disregard of earlier treaties 1 he expelled, 
A.M. 14-15 (63 $-6), among others, the Jews of Khaybar,* who 
found abode in Jericho and other places, as well as the Christians 
of Najran, who fled to Syria and al-*Iraq«* The second cardinal 
point in 'Umar's policy was to organize the Arabians, now all 
Moslems, into a complete religio-miiitary commonwealth with 
its members keeping themselves pure and unmixed — a sort of 
martial aristocracy — and denying the privilege of citizenship 
to all non-Arabians. With this in view the Arabian Moslems Tvere 
not to hold or cultivate landed property outside the peninsula. 
In the peninsula itself the native who owned land paid a kind 
of a tithe (fushr) thereon. Accordingly the Arabian conquerors in 
Syria first lived in camps: al-Jabiyah, IJims/Amwas.Tabarlyah 3 
(for the Jordan district), and al-Ludd (Lydda) and later al-Raml ah 
for the Filastln (Palestine) district. In Egypt they settled in 
ai-Fustat and the Alexandria camp. In al- f Iraq the newly built 

\ See Wfiqidi, MagkS**, pp. 391-2, and abn*YOsuf, Kitab al-Khardj (Cairo, 
*34$)# PP* 8$-6, ibr the terras the Prophet gave. 
* An oasis about 100 miles north of al-Madlnah on the road to Syria, 
*,Baladhuri f p. 66 -Hitti, pp. lot-2, 

4 Modern TaWAyyah « Tiberias. 'Amwas or 'Arnawas, and en t Eramaus, 



al-Kufah and ai-Basrah served as headquarters. 1 In the con- 
quered territories the subject peoples were left in their professions 
and the cultivation of the soil, occupying an inferior status and 
regarded as a kind of reserve for the benefit of the Moslems 
(maddat al-Muslimtn)? Even when converted to Islam a non- 
Arab was to occupy a position subsidiary to that of the Moslem 

As Dhimmis,* the subject peoples would enjoy the protection 
of the Moslems and have no military duty to perform, since they 
were barred by religion from service in the Moslem army; but 
they would have a heavy tribute to pay. Being outside the pale 
of Moslem law they were allowed the jurisdiction of their own 
canon laws as administered by the respective heads of their 
religious communities. This state of partial autonomy, recog- 
nized later by the sultans of Turkey, has been retained by the 
Arab successor states. 

When a subject was converted to Islam he was freed, accord- 
ing to this primitive system ascribed by tradition to * Umar, from 
all tributary obligations, including what was later termed poll 
tax. The land tax inhered in the land whenever the land was 
considered fatf % waqf % i.e. for the whole Moslem community, 
and the Moslem continued to pay it. The only exception to the 
Jay lands was constituted by those districts whose inhabitants 
according to tradition, voluntarily surrendered to the Arab 
conquerors on condition that they be allowed to retain their 
lands. Such districts were called ddr al-$ulh (the territory of 
capitulation). Instead of the poll tax the convert incurred 
a new obligation, that of the zakah (poor rate); but on the other 
hand he shared in the pensions and other benefits accruing to 
him as a Moslem. 

Later developments, the result of many years of practice, were 
attributed by this tradition to the initiative of 'Umar. The fact 
is that the original part which the first caliphs and the early 
Moslem governors played in the imposition of taxes and the 
administration of finances could not have been great. The frame- 

11 In the first Moslem century a number of such military cantonment arose, in- 
cluding 'Asltar Mukram in Khuzistan, Shiraz in Faxis, and Barqah asd al-Qay- 
rawan in North Africa. 

* Yajiya ion-Adam, Kttdb ahKhardj, ed. Juynboll (Lcyden, 1S96), p. 2jr. 

* Or Ahl al-Dhimmah (people of the covenant or obligation), a term first applied 
only to Ahl al-Kitab t i.e. the Jews, Christians and $abians (not to be confused with 
Sabaeans) and later interpreted to include Zoroastrians and others. 

+ w 


work of the Byzantine provincial government in Syria and Egypt 
was continued in Allah's name, and no radical changes were 
introduced into the machinery of local administration in the 
former Persian domains. From the very beginning taxation 
varied according to the nature of the soil and the system that 
had prevailed in that locality under the old rule, whether Byzan- 
tine or Persian; it did not necessarily depend upon the acquisi- 
tion of land by capitulation (sulhan) or by force (^anwatan) nor 
upon any legislative act on the part of 'Umar* 1 Conquest by 
capitulation and conquest by force as used to explain the varia- 
tion in taxation was often a late legal fiction rather than the real 
cause. Likewise the distinction between jizyah as poll tax and 
kharaj (from Gr. choregia or Aram, kcragga) as land tax had not 
arisen at the time of the second caliph (634-44). The two words 
in this early period were used interchangeably; both meant 
tribute in general. In the Koran the only occurrence of the word 
jizyah is in sur. 9 : 29, where it has in no sense a legal meaning, 
Kharaj occurs also only once in the Koran (23 : 74), and then 
in the sense of remuneration rather than land tax. Evidently the 
original terms made with the conquered people were well-nigh 
forgotten by the time the historians began to record those events, 
which they interpreted in the light of later conditions and de- 

The differentiation between the two forms of taxation implied 
in jizyah and kharaj was not made until the time of the late 
Umayyads. The land tax was paid in instalments and in kind 
from the produce of the land and from cattle, but never in the 
form c-f wine, pigs and dead animals. The poll tax was paid in 
a lump sum and as an index of lower status. The latter was 
generally four dinars 2 for the well-to-do, two for the middle class 
and one for the poor. In addition the subject people were liable 
to other exactions for the maintenance of Moslem troops. These 
* .taxes applied only to the able-bodied; women, children, beggars, 
monks, the aged, insane and incurably sick being exempt except 
When any of them had an independent iricome: 

The third principle said to have been enunciated by *Umar 
in consonance with the view of his advisers among the Com- 

1 Of. Daniel C Dennett, Jr , Ccmersttm and (he Poll Tax in Early Islam (Cam- 
, bridge, Mass , 1950), 1 2. 

* From Greek-lAtm dettanus; tht unit of gold currency in the caliphate, weighing 
about 4 grams In ^Omar's iiine the dinar was the equivalent of 10 dirhatas, later 1 2. 



panions 1 was that only movable property and prisoners won as 
booty constituted ghammak* and belonged to the warriors as 
hitherto, but not the land. The land as well as all moneys received 
from subjects constituted fay** and belonged to the Moslem 
community as a whole* Cultivators of fay estates continued to 
be bound to pay land tax even if they adopted Islam. Ail such 
revenues were deposited in the public treasury, and whatever 
remained after the payment of the common expenses of ad- 
ministration and warfare had to be divided among the Moslems. 
In order to accomplish the distribution a census became necessary^ 
the first census recorded in history for the distribution of state 
revenue. 'A'ishah headed the list with a pension of 12,000 
dirhams 4 a year. After the Ahl al-Bayt (the Prophet's family) 
came the Emigrants and Supporters, each with a subsidy accord- 
ing to his precedence in the profession of the new faith. About 
5000 or 4000 dirhams per annum was the average allotment to 
each person in this category. 6 At the bottom came the mass of 
Arabian tribes arranged in the register according to military 
service and knowledge of the Koran. The minimum for an 
ordinary warrior was 500-600 dirhams; even women, children 
and clients 6 were included in the register and received annuities 
ranging from 200 to 600 dirhams. This institution of the diwan 
(whence Fr. dotiane y for customhouse), or public registers of 
receipts and expenditures, with which 1 Umar was credited was 
evidently borrowed from the Persian system, as ibn-al-Tiqtaqa 7 
asserts and as the word itself (from Pers. dtwdn) indicates. 

'Umar's military communistic constitution set up an ascend- 
ancy of Arabism and secured for the non-Arabian believer a 
status superior to that of the unbeliever. But it was too artificial 
to stand the test of time. Under 'Umar's immediate successor, 

1 Ibn-Sa'd, vol. iii, pt- I, p. 2 12. 

* For a discussion of ghanirnch and/<y* sec al-Mawardi, al-Afrkdm ol-SttlfSntyah, 
ed. M . Engcr (Bonn, 1 85 3), pp. 2 1 7 -45; abu-Yusuf , pp. 2 1 -32. 

3 According to sur. 8 : 42, only one-fifth of the booty was the share of Allah and 
the Prophet, i.e. the state's, the remaining four-fifths belonged to the warriors who 
secured it. 

* Ar. dirkam (Pcrs. dtram, from Gr. drackm£) t the unit of silver coinage in the 
Arab monetary system, had the nominal value of a pre-war French franc, about 
jod. (19 cents in U.S. money), but naturally its real value varied a great deal. 

* Ibn-Sa*d, vol. iii, pt. t, pp. 213-14; Mawardi, pp. 347-8; abu-Yusuf, pp. 50-54; 
Baladhuri, pp. 450-5!. 

* MawSii, sing, mcwla, a non-Arab embracing Islam and affiliating himself with 
on Arabian tribe. His ill-defined rank placed him below the Moslem Arabians. 

* FMri, p. 116; cf. Mawardi, pp. 343*4- 


r Uthman,_permission was given to the sons of Arabia to hold 
landed property in the newly conquered territories. With the 
lapse of years the aristocracy of the Arabians was submerged 
by the rising tide of the Mawali. 

The army was the ummak, the whole nation, in action. Its Th 
amir or commander in chief was the caliph in al-Madinah, who *" 
delegated the authority to his lieutenants or generals. In the 
early stages the general who conquered a certain territory would 
also act as leader in prayer and as judge. Al-Baladhuri 1 tells us 
that *Umar appointed a gdfi (judge) for Damascus and the 
Jordan and another for rlims and Qinnasrin. If so he was the 
caliph who established the institution of judgeship.* 

The division of the army into centre, two wings, vanguard and 
rear guard was already known at Muhammad's time and betrays 
Byzantine and Sasanid influence. The khamts (five) was the term 
used for this military unit. The cavalry covered the wings. In the 
division the tribal unit was preserved. Each tribe had its own 
standard, a cloth attached to a lance, borne by one of the bravest. 
The Prophet's banner is said to have been the *uqab (eagle). The 
infantry used bow and arrow, sling, and sometimes shield and 
sword; the sword was carried in a scabbard flung over the right 
shoulder. The frarbak (javelin) was introduced later from Abys- 
sinia. The chief weapon of the cavalry was the rumh (lance), 
the shafts of which, famous in Arabic literature as klvatti, were 
so named after aUKhatt, the coast of al-Bahrayn, where the bam- 
boo was first grown and whither it was later imported from 
India. This, together with the bow and arrow, formed the two 
national Weapons. The best swords were also made in India, 
whence the name Hindi. The defensive armour was the coat of 
mail and the shield. The Arab armour was lighter than the 

The order of battle was primitive, in lines or rows and in 
compact array. Hostilities began with individual combats of 
distinguished champions who stepped forward out of the ranks 
and delivered a challenge. The Arabian warrior received higher 
' remuneration than his Persian or Byzantine rival and was sure of 
a portion of the booty. Soldiering was not only the noblest and 
most pleasing profession in the sight of Allah but also the most 

< - + *'P. I4*« Hitri, 217. * Ibn-Sa'd, vol iii, pt 1, p. 202, II. 27-8. 

, * * Oa Arab weapons sc* ibn-Qutaybab, *UyUn, vol i, pp. 128-32, 



profitable. The strength of the Moslem Arabian army lay neither 
in the superiority of its arms nor in the excellence of its organiza- 
tion but in its higher morale, to which religion undoubtedly con- 
tributed its share; in its powers of endurance, which the desert 
breeding fostered; and in its remarkable mobility, due mainly to 
camel transport. 1 

The so By the conquest of the Fertile Crescent and the lands of Persia 
and Egypt the Arabians came into possession not only of geo- 
civite graphical areas but of the earliest seats of civilization in the whole 
tX}G world. Thus the sons of the desert fell heir to these hoary cultures 
with their long traditions going back to Greco-Roman, Iranian, 
Pharaonic and Assyro-Babylonian times. In art and architecture, 
in philosophy, in medicine, in science and literature, in govern- 
ment, the original Arabians had nothing to teach and every- 
thing to learn. And what voracious appetites they proved to 
have! With an ever sharp sense of curiosity and with latent 
potentialities never aroused before, these Moslem Arabians in 
collaboration with and by the help of their subject peoples began 
now to assimilate, adapt and reproduce their intellectual and 
esthetic heritage. In Ctesiphon, Edessa, Nisibis, Damascus, 
Jerusalem and Alexandria they viewed, admired and copied the 
work of the architect, the artisan, the jeweller and the manu- 
facturer. To all these centres of ancient culture they came, they 
saw and were conquered. Theirs was another instance in which 
the victor was made captive by the vanquished. 

What we therefore call "Arab civilization" was Arabian 
neither in. its origins and fundamental structure nor in its 
principal ethnic aspects. The purely Arabian contribution in it 
was in the linguistic and to a certain extent in the religious 
fields. Throughout the whole period of the caliphate the Syrians, 
the Persians, the Egyptians and others, as Moslem converts or 
as Christians and Jews, were the foremost bearers of the torch 
of enlightenment and learning just as the subjugated Greeks were 
in their relation to the victorious Romans. The Arab Islamic 
civilization was at bottom the Hellenized Aramaic and the 
Iranian civilizations as developed under the segis of the caliphate 
and expressed through the medium of the Arabic tongue. In 
another sense it was the logical continuation of the early Semitic 

1 For a comparison with the Byzantine army consult Charles Oman, A History 
9} the Art ef War tn the Mtddh Ages* 2nd ed. (London, 1924), vol. i, pp. 208 ug* 


civilization of the Fertile Crescent originated and developed by 
the Assyro-Babylonians, Phoenicians, Aramaeans and Hebrews. 
In it the unity of the Mediterranean civilization of Western Asia 
found its culmination. 

The conquest of the world receiving its impulse under abu- 
Bakr reached its high-water mark under 'Umar and came to a 
temporary standstill under *Ali, whose caliphate was too clouded 
with internal disturbances to admit of further expansion. At the 
end of a single generation after the Prophet the Moslem empire 
had extended from the Oxus to Syrtis Minor in northern Africa. 
Starting with nothing the Moslem Arabian caliphate had now 
grown to be the strongest power of the world. 

Abu-Bakr (632-4), the conqueror and pacifier of Arabia, 
lived in patriarchal simplicity. In the first six months of his short 
reign he travelled back and forth daily from al-Sunh (where 
he lived in a modest household with his wife, ^ablbah) to his 
capital al-MadTnah, and received no stipend since the state had 
at that time hardly any income. 1 AH state business he trans- 
acted in the courtyard of the Prophet's Mosque. His personal 
qualities and unshaken faith in his son-in-law Muhammad, who 
was three years his senior, make him one of the most attractive 
characters in nascent Islam and have won him the title of 
al-Siddiq (the believer). 2 In character he was endowed with 
much more strength and forcefulness than current tradition 
credits to him. Physically he is represented as of fair complexion, 
slender build and thin countenance; he dyed his beard and walked 
with a stoop. 3 

Simple and frugal in manner, his energetic and talented 
successor, *Umar (634-44), w ^o was of towering height, strong 
physique and bald-headed/ continued at least for some time 
after becoming caliph to support himself by trade and lived 
throughout his life in a style as unostentatious as that of a 
Bedouin sheikh. In fact f Umar, whose name according to 
Moslem.tradition is the greatest in early Islam after that of 
Muhammad, has been idolized by Moslem writers for his piety, 
justice and patriarchal simplicity and treated as the personifica- 
tion of all the virtues a caliph ought to possess. His irreproach- 

* Ibn-SaM, vol. m, pt. 1, pp. 131-2; ibn-ai-Athlr, Usd aUGhahak fi Mo'rifet 
er-fsafabah (Cairo, 12&6), vol. m, p. srp. 

, * vUsuaiiy translated "the veracious". But see ibn*SaM, vol. iii, pt, 1, pp, 120-21. 

• Ya'qubi, voL u\ p, 157. * Ibid, p. 185, 

i 7 6 


able character became an exemplar for all conscientious suc- 
cessors to follow. He owned, we are told, one shirt and one 
mantle only, both conspicuous for their patchwork, 1 slept on a 
bed of palm Jeaves and had no concern other than the main- 
tenance of the purity of the faith, the upholding of justice and 
the ascendancy and security of Islam and the Arabians. Arabic 
literature is replete with anecdotes extolling 'Umar's stern 
character. He is said to have scourged his own son to death 8 for 
drunkenness and immorality. Having in a fit of anger inflicted 
a number of stripes on a Bedouin who came seeking his succour 
against an oppressor, the caliph soon repented and asked the 
Bedouin to inflict the same number on him. But the latter 
refused. So r Umar retired to his home with the following 

0 son of al-Khattabl humble thou wert and Allah hath elevated thee; 
astray, and Allah hath guided thee; weak, and Allah hath strengthened 
thee Then He caused thee to rule over the necks of thy people, and 
when one of them came seeking thy aid, thou didst strike him! What wilt 
thou have to say to thy Lord when thou presentest thyself before Him? 3 

The one who fixed the Hijrah as the commencement of the 
Moslem era, presided over the conquest of large portions of 
the then known world, instituted the state register and organized 
the government of the new empire met a tragic and sudden death 
at the very zenith of his life when he was struck down (November 
3, 644) by the poisoned dagger of a Christian Persian slave* 
in the midst of his own congregation. 

'Uthman, who committed the words of Allah to an unalter- 
able form and whose reign saw the complete conquest of Iran, 
Adharbayjan and parts of Armenia, was also a pious and well- 
meaning old man, but too weak to resist the importunities of 
his greedy kinsfolk. His foster brother, Abdullah, formerly the 
Prophet's amanuensis, who had tampered with the words of 
revelation 5 and who was one of the ten proscribed by Muham- 
mad at the capture of Makkah, he appointed over Egypt; his 
half-brother, al-Walid ibn-'Uqbah, who had spat in Muham- 

1 Ibn-SaM, \ol. Hi, pt. I, pp 237*9. 

* Djvarbakn, Ta*tikh al-Khamts (Cairo, 1302), vol. ii, p. 281 II. 3-4; ol-Nuwayri, 
Nthayat al-Arab t vol. iv (Cairo, 1925), pp. 89 90. 

5 Ibn al-Athir, op. af. vol, iv, p 61. 

4 Tabari, vol. i, pp 2722-3: Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. 183. 

* Koran 6 : 93; Ba>^a^i, vol. i, p. 300. 


mad's face and had been condemned by the latter, he made 
governor of al-Kufah; his cousin Marwan ibn-^j-rjakanva 
future Umayyad caliph, he put in charge of the diwan. Many 
important offices were filled by Umayyads, the caliph's family- 1 
The caliph himself accepted presents from his governors or their 
partisans, including a beautiful maid offered by th^ governor of 
al-Basrah. Charges of nepotism became widespread. The feel- 
ing of discontent aroused by his unpopular administration was 
fanned by the three Qurayshite aspirants to the caliphate: *Ali, 
Talhah and al-Zubayr. The uprising started in aUtufah among 
*Ali's followers and proved particularly strong in Egypt, which 
in April 656 sent some five hundred rebels to al-Madinah* The 
insurgents shut the venerable octogenarian in his residence, and 
whilst he read the copy of the Koran* which he had canonized 
the house was stormed; Muhammad, son of abu-Bsikr his friend 
and predecessor, broke in and laid the first violent hand upon 
him.* Thus fell the first caliph whose blood was shed by Moslem 
hands (June 17, 656). The patriarchal epoch of Islam, during 
which the awe inspired by the Prophet and the hallowed associa- 
tion connected with al-Madlnah were still an active living force in 
the lives of the successors of Muhammad, ended ih a stream of 
blood let loose by the struggle for the now vacant throne, first 
between c Ali and his close rivals, Talhah and al-Zubayr, and then 
between *AH and a new aspirant, Mu*awiyah, the champion of 
'the Umayyad cause of which the murdered 'Uthman was a 

1 Ibn-I.fojar, vol. iv, pp. 223-4; ihn-Sa*d, vol. Hi, pt. 1, p. 44; Jvfaa'Odi, vol, ir, 
pp. 257*?. 

* ibtvBattatah (f *377)# vol ii, pp. 10-n, claims that when he visited al*Ba$rah 
its mosque still preserved 'Uthman's copy of the Koran with his olood staining the 
page on which occurs sfcr. 2 ; 131, where according to ibn-Sa'd, vol. ifi f pt. I, p. 52, 
thefiowing hloodof the wounded caliph stopped. See Quntrtmhte in Jt CU rna/cssa ts^uf, 
ttu 3, vol. vi {1S38), pp. 4^5. 

* r Ibtt-Sa*d, vot iii, pt 1, p. 51. 



The Abu-Bakr, one of the earliest supporters and staunchest friends 
ci^phate °^ Muhammad, whose alter ego he was and who had conducted 
the public prayers during the last illness of the Prophet, was 
designated (June 8, 632) Muhammad's successor by some form 
of election in which those leaders present at the capital, al- 
Madlnah, took part. He was to assume all those duties and 
privileges of the Prophet with the exception of such as related 
to his prophetic office — which had ceased with Muhammad's 

The designation khalifat Rasul Allah (the successor of the 
Messenger of Allah), applied in this case to abu-Bakr, may not 
have been used by him as a title. The term khalifah occurs only 
twice in the Koran (2 : 28, 38 : 25); in neither case does it seem 
to have any technical significance or to carry any indication that 
it was intended to be applied to the successor of Muhammad. 

*Umar, the logical candidate after abu-Bakr, was designated 
by the latter as his successor and is said at first to have used 
the title with the designation khalifat khalifat (the caliph of 
the caliph of) Rasul Allah, which proved too long and was con- 
sequently abbreviated. 1 The second caliph (634-44) * s credited 
with being the first to bear in his capacity as commander in 
chief of the Moslem armies the distinctive title amir al-mumtnin 
(commander of the believers), the "Miramolin" of Christian 
medieval writers. Before his death 'Umar is represented as 
having nominated a board of six electors: *Ali ibn-abi-Talib, 
'Uthman ibn- f Affan, al-Zubayr ibn-al-'Awwam, T a ^b an * Dn * 
'Abdullah, Sa*d ibn-abi-Waqqas and 'Abd-al-Rahman ibn~ 
f Awf, 2 with the stipulation that his own son be not elected to 
succeed him. The constitution of this board called al-Shura 
(consultation), including the oldest and most distinguished 

s Ibn SaM, vol hi, pt J, p. 202. * Ibid. vol. 111, pt I, pp. 24s seq. 



Companions surviving, showed that the ancient Arabian idea 
of a tribal chief had triumphed over that of the hereditary 

In the case of the third caliph, 'Uthman (644), seniority again 
determined his election over C A1L e Uthman represented the 
Umayyad aristocracy as against his two predecessors who 
represented the Emigrants. None of these caliphs founded a 

Subsequent to the murder of 'Uthman, *Ali was proclaimed 
the fourth caliph at the Prophet*s Mosque in al-Madmah on 
June 24, 656. Practically the whole Moslem world acknowledged 
his succession. The new caliph was the first cousin of Muham- 
mad, the husband of his favourite daughter, Fatimah, the father 
of his only two surviving male descendants, al-tlasan and al- 
yusayn, and either the second or third to believe in his prophet- 
hood. He was affable, pious and valiant. The party he repre- 
sented, ahl al-na$s w-al-t<iytn x (people of divine ordinance and 
designation «the legitimists), had stoutly averred that from the 
beginning Allah and His Prophet had clearly designated 'Ah as 
the only legitimate successor but that the first three caliphs had 
cheated him out of his rightful office. 

'All's first problem was to dispose of his two rivals to the high Th« 
office he had just assumed, Talhah and al-Zubayr, who repre- ^J ! J 
sented the Makkan party. Both *Jalhah and al-Zubayr fi had 
followers in al-ljijaz and ai-'Iraq who refused to acknowledge 
'All's successorship. 'A'ishah, the most beloved wife of the 
Prophet and now "the mother of the believers", who had con- 
nived at the insurrection against *Uthman, now joined the ranks 
of the insurgents against 'Ali at al-Basrah, The youthful 
'A'ishah, who had married so young 3 that she brought toys with 
her from her fathers (abu-Bakr's) home, hated *AH with all the 
bitterness of a wounded pride; for once, when she loitered behind 
the caravan of her husband, he had suspected her fidelity until 
Allah intervened in her favour through a revelation (sun 
24 : 11-20). Outside of ai-Ba$rah on December 9, 656, *Ali met 
and defeated the coalition in a battle styled "the battle of the 
camel", after the camel on which *A > ishah rode, which was the 

1 Shahrastani, p* 15. 

* Al-Zubayr's mother was a sister of the Prophet's father. 

* At the age of nine or texs, according to ibn-Hisham, p. 1001. 


rally ing-point for the rebel warriors. Both rivals of f Ali fell; he 
magnanimously mourned the fallen and had them honourably 
buried. 1 'A*ishah was captured and treated most considerately 
and in a manner befitting her dignity as the "first lady" of the 
land. She was sent back to al-Madinah. Thus came to an end 
the first, but by no means the last, encounter in which Moslem 
stood against Moslem in battle array. The dynastic wars that 
were to convulse Islam from time to time and occasionally shake 
it to its very foundation had just begun. 

Ostensibly secure on his throne, *Ali from his new capital 
al-Kufah inaugurated his regime by dismissing most of the pro- 
vincial governors appointed by his predecessor and exacting the 
oath of fealty from the others. With one of them, Mu'awiyah 
ibn-abi-Sufyan, governor of Syria and kinsman of 'Uthman, 
he did not reckon. Mu'awiyah now came out as the avenger of 
the martyred caliph. He exhibited in the Damascus mosque the 
blood-stained shirt of the murdered ruler and the fingers cut 
from the hand of his wife Na'ilah as she tried to defend him.* 
With the tactics and eloquence of an Antony he endeavoured to 
play on Moslem emotions. Withholding his homage from *Ali» 
Mu'awiyah tried to corner him with this dilemma: Produce the 
assassins of the duly appointed successor of the Prophet or 
accept the position of an accomplice who is thereby disqualified 
from the caliphate. The issue, however, was more than a personal 
one, h transcended individual and even family affairs. The real 
question was whether al-Kufah or Damascus, al-*Iraq or Syria, 
should be supreme in Islamic affairs. Al-Madinah, which 'Ali 
had left soon after his installation in 656 never to revisit, was 
already out of the way. The weight of the far-flung conquests 
had shifted the centre of gravity to the north. 

On the plain of Siffin south of al-Raqqah, on the west bank 
of the Euphrates, the two armies finally stood face to face: 'Ali 
with an army reported to have comprised 50,000 'Iraqis and 
Mu'awiyah with his Syrians. In a half-hearted manner, for 
neither side was anxious to precipitate a final decision, the 
skirmishes dragged on for weeks. The final encounter took place 
on July 28.657. Under the leadership of Malik al-Ashtar, 'AH's 
forces were on the point of victory when the shrewd, wily *Ainr 

1 A town Lcaring his name has grown around the tomb of al-Zubayr. 
* JFcihri, pp. 125, 137. 


ibn-aPAs, Mu*awiyah*s leader, resorted to a ruse. Copies of the 
Koran fastened to lances were suddenly seen thrust in the air — 
a gesture interpreted to mean an appeal from the decision of 
arms to the decision of the Koran. Hostilities ceased. Urged by 
his followers, the simple-hearted 'AH accepted Mu e awiyah*s 
proposal to arbitrate the case and thus spare Moslem blood* 
The arbitration was, of course, to be "according to the word of 
Allah" J — whatever that may have meant. 

Against his better judgment the caliph appointed as his per- 
sonal representative abu-Musa al-Ash r ari, a man of undoubted 
piety but of lukewarm loyalty to the e Alid cause. Mu'awiyah 
matched him with * Amr ibn-al-*As, who has been dubbed a 
political genius of the Arabs. 31 Armed each with a written docu- 
ment giving him full authorization to act and accompanied' by 
four hundred witnesses each, the two arbiters (sing, hakairi) held 
their public session in January 659 at Adhruh on the main cara- 
van route between al-Madmah and Damascus and half-way 
between Ma'an and Pctra. 

Exactly what transpired at this historical conference is diffi- 
cult to ascertain. Various versions appear in different sources. 3 
The current tradition is that the two umpires agreed to depose 
both principals, thus clearing the way for a "dark horse"; but 
after the elder of the two, abu-Musa, had stood up and declared 
the caliphate of his master null and void, *Amr betrayed his 
colleague and confirmed Mu'awiyah. But the critical studies of 
Pere Lammens,* preceded by those of Wellhausen, 5 tend to show 
that this tradition reflects the view of the 'Iraqi school, to which 
most of our extant sources belong, which flourished under the 
'Abbasids— the Umayyads* mortal enemies. What probably 
happened was that both referees deposed both principals, which 
left *AIi the loser. Mu'awiyah had no caliphate to be deposed 
from. He was but a governor of a province. The very fact of the 
arbitration itself had raised him to a level equivalent to that of 
*AH, whose position was thereby lowered to that of a mere 
pretender. The sentence of the judges deprived *Ali of a real 

v 1 For the arbitration document sec Dirmwari, pp. 206-8. 
^ * Mosud^-roL rv, p. 391. See beW, p. 196. Cf. above, p. 161. 

* (X T^barii \ot i, pp. 3340-60; Mas'tidi, vol. iv, pp. 392-402; Ya*qubi> \ol. u, 
pp. 220-22; JFMriy pp. 127-30. 

n £tttcss stir h regnc dtt ttxh/e osntriyndc Afo'awic I* r (B&iiit, tgoj) t ch vii, 
> 7 * Das artj&iseke Jtrich and scin Stxrs (Berlin, 1902), ch. u ~ The Arab Kingdom 
W j/j tr. Margaret G. Weir (Calcutta 1927), ch. 13. 


office, and Mu*awiyah of a fictitious claim which he had not yet 
dared publicly to assert. Not until 'All's death in 661, two years 
after the curtain had been lowered on the arbitration farce, did 
Mu'awiyah's caliphate receive general recognition 

The acceptance of the principle of arbitration proved disastrous 
to *AIi in more than one way: it alienated the sympathy of a 
large body of his own followers. These Kharijites 1 (seceders), 
as they were called, the earliest sect of Islam, proved his deadly 
foes. Adopting as a slogan la hiikma ilia li-ULah* (arbitration 
belongs to Allah alone), they rose in arms to the number of 
4000 s under the leadership of 'Abdullah ibn-Wahb al-Rasibh 
On the bank of the Nahrawan canal *Ali attacked their camp 
(659) and almost annihilated them, but they rose again under 
various names and remained a thorn in the side of the caliphate 
till the 'Abbasid period. 

Early on January 24, 661 , as *Ali was on his way to the mosque 
at al-Kufah he was struck on the forehead with a poisoned 
sabre. The weapon, which penetrated to the brain, was wielded 
by a ICharijitc, c Abd-at-Rahman ibn-Muljam, who was actuated 
by the desire to avenge certain relatives of a lady, a friend of 
his, who were slaughtered at Nahrawan. Tradition makes ibn- 
Muljam one of three accomplices who under oath at al-Ka*bah 
had concocted a plan to rid the Moslem community on the same 
day of its three disturbing elements: *Ali, Mu'awiyah and 'Amr 
ibn-al-'As 4 — all of which sounds too dramatic to be true. The 
lonely spot near al-Kufah where 'Ali was interred, 5 the present 
Mashhad 'Ali in al-Najaf, has developed into one of the great 
centres of pilgrimage in Islam. 

To his Shi*ite partisans the fourth caliph soon became pre- 
eminently the saint of the sect, the Wali (friend and vicegerent) 
of Allah, just as Muhammad had been the Prophet of Islam and 
the Messenger of Allah. *AH dead proved more effective than 
*AH living. As a canonized martyr he retrieved at once more 

1 Also called Iiaruriyah, from Harura* (I^arawra* in Yaqut, vol.ii, p. 246). 
1 Fakhrt t p. 130. Cf. Koran, 12 ; 70. 1 12,000 in Shahrasfim, p 86, 

* Cf. Dmawari, p. 227, Tabari, \ol i, pp 3456 seqz H. Zotenberg^ Chronique dt 
Tdhars^ vol. m (Paris, 1871), pp 706 seq. 

* The site, as the Shfite tradition asserts, was chosen in accordance with the 
dying wish of 'Ali, uho ordered that his corpse be put on a loose camel and buried 
wherever the camel knelt. The place was kept secret until Harfm ai-Rashld in 791 
fell upon it by chance. For the first detailed account of the tomb see lbn-f^awqal, 
el'Mcsaltk w cl*Mana!ik t cd. de Goeje (Leyden, 1872), p. 163. 


than he had lost in a lifetime. Though lacking in those traits 
that constitute a leader and a politician, viz. alertness, foresight, 
resolution, expediency, he still possessed the qualities of an 
ideal Arabian. Valiant in battle, wise in counsel, eloquent in 
speech, true to his friends, magnanimous to his foes, he became 
both the paragon of Moslem nobility and chivalry (fuiuwah) and 
the Solomon of Arabic tradition, around whose name poems, 
proverbs, sermonettes and anecdotes innumerable have clustered. 
He had a swarthy complexion, large black eyes, bald head, thick 
and long white beard, and was corpulent and of medium stature. 1 
His sabre dhu-al~Faqar (the cleaver of vertebrae), wielded by 
the Prophet on the memorable battlefield of Badr, has been 
immortalized in the words of the verse found engraved on 
many medieval Arab swords: La say/a ilia dhu-al-Faqari wa- 
la fata ilia *Ali » "No sword can match dhu-al-Faqar, and no 
young warrior can compare with 'Alii" The later Fiiyan move- 
ment, which developed ceremonies and insignia savouring of 
medieval European chivalry and the modern Scout movements, 
took r Ali for its first Fata and model. Regarded as wise and brave 
by all the Islamic world, as idealistic and exemplary by many 
Fityan and dervish fraternities, as sinless and infallible by his 
partisans and even held to be the incarnation of the deity by the 
Ghulah (extremists) among them, he whose worldly career was 
practically a failure has continued to exert a posthumous in- 
fluence second only to that of the Prophet himself. The throngs 
of pilgrims that still stream to his mash/tad at al-Najaf and to 
that of his son al~$usayn, the Shfah arch-saint and martyr at 
near-by Karbala', and the passion play enacted annually on 
the tenth of Muharram throughout the Shf ah world testify 
to the possibility that death may avail a Messiah more than 

With the death of c Ali (661) what may be termed the republican Per 
period of the caliphate, which began with abu-Bakr (632), came 
to an end. The four caliphs of this era are known to Arab his- 
torians as ahRashidiin (orthodox). The founder of the second 
caliphate, Mu'awiyah the Umayyad, a man of the world, nomi- 
nated his own son Yazld as his successor and thus became the 
founder of a dynasty. The hereditary principle was thereby intro- 
duced into the caliphal succession never thereafter to be entirely 

* Mas'udi, Touted p. 297* 

j 84 


abandoned. The Umayyad caliphate was the first dynasty 
(piulM) in the history of Islam. The fiction of election was 
preserved in the bay' ah 1 (literally "sale"), the ceremony by which 
the leaders of the people literally or figuratively took the hand 
of the new caliph as a sign of homage. The Umayyad caliphate 
(661-750) with its capital at Damascus was followed by the 
'Abbasid (750-1258) at Baghdad, The Fatimid caliphate (909- 
11 71), whose main seat was Cairo, was the only Shfite one of 
primary importance. Another Umayyad caliphate at Cordova 
(Qurtubah) in Spain lasted from 929 to 1031, The last great 
caliphate of Islam was non-Arab, that of the Ottoman Turks 
in Constantinople (ca. 1517-1924). In November 1922 the 
Grand National Assembly at Ankara declared Turkey a republic, 
deposed the Sultan-Caliph Muhammad VI and made his cousin 
c Abd-al-Majid caliph, denying him the sultanate. In March 
I924 the caliphate itself was abolished. 5 

1 Ibn-Khaldun, Mugaddamah, i.e. vol. i of Kitdb al*Iharwa-Dixuan al-Mubtcda 
wal*Khabar (Cairo, 1284), pp. 174-5 = pp. 37^*7 of Quatremere's ed., in Notices 
tt extraiU etc., vol. xvi (Paris, 1858), and pp. 424*6 of de Slane's tr., vol. xix 
(Paris, 1862). 

* The subjoined tree shows the connection of the lines of caliphs: 




f Abd«Shams 

Umar abu-Bakr 'Abdullah abu-falib al-*Abbis Umayyad CauphS 


af?ah 'A'ishah + Muhammad 

+ I 
Muhammad ' 

Uthman + Ruqayyah Fatimah + 'AH 


•Abbasid Caliphs 



The Imams 

Fatimid Cauphs 


Wc should here guard against the common fallacy that the 
caliphate was a religious office- In this regard analogies drawn 
from the headship of the Holy Roman Empire and from the 
modern Christian distinction between the spheres of temporal 
and religious powers are misleading. As amir al-muminht, 
commander of the believers, the military office of the caliph was 
emphasized. As imam (leader in public prayer) the caiiph could 
and did lead the religious service and pronounce the Friday 
khutbah (sermon); but this was a function which the humblest of 
Moslems could perform. Succession to Muhammad {kkilafah) 
meant succession to the sovereignty of the state. Muhammad as 
a prophet, as an instrument of revelation, as a messenger 
(rasuf) of Allah,* could have no successor. The caliph's relation 
to religion was merely that of a guardian. He defended the faith 
just as any European emperor was supposed to do, suppressed 
heresies, warred against unbelievers and extended the bound- 
aries of the Dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam), in the performance 
of all of which he employed the power of his secular arm. 1 

Later theoretical legists, flourishing mostly in Makkah, al- 
Madlnah and other centres, and out of touch with the course 
of events in the Islamic capitals of Damascus, Baghdad and 
Cairo, worked out nicely-drawn qualifications, privileges and 
functions said to pertain to the caliph. Al-Mawardi 3 (f 1058) in 
his Utopian treatise on politics, al-Nasafi (f 1310), ibn-Khaldun 
(f I406) in his famous critical prolegomena 8 and later writers 
representing the Sunnite (orthodox) theory list the following 
caiiphal qualifications: membership in the Quraysh family; 
being male and adult; soundness of body and mind; courage, 
energy and other traits of character necessary for the defence of 
the realm; and the winning of the allegiance of the community 
by an act of bay'ak. The Shfah, on the other hand, who make 
less of the caliphate and more of the imamate, confine the office 
to the family of 'AH, who they hold was nominated by Muham- 
mad as his successor on the basis of a divine ordinance (nass) 
and whose qualifications passed on to his descendants pre- 
ordained for the high office by Allah/ Among the caiiphal func- 
tions according to the Sunnite school are: protection and main- 

1 Consult Thomas \Y # Arnold, Th$ Caliphate (Oxford, 1924), pp 0-41, 
* Pp, 5*to, * ,\fuq6dda**ttth t p. 16 U 

* Shsthmst&it, pp. toS-9: ibn-Khnldun, pp. 164-5. 



tenance of the faith and the territory of Islam (particularly the 
two sacred places — al-haramayn — of Makkah and al-Madinah) 
and in case of necessity the declaration of a holy war (Jihad); 
appointment of state officials; collection of taxes and administra- 
tion of public funds; punishment of wrongdoing and the execu- 
tion of justice. 1 The privileges include the mention of the caliph's 
name in the Friday khuibah and on the coinage; the wearing of 
the burdah (the Prophet's mantle) on important state occasions; 
the custody of such holy relics as the staff, seal, shoe, tooth and 
hair that are said to have been Muhammad's.* 

Not until the latter part of the eighteenth century did the 
notion prevail in Europe that the Moslem caliph was a kind of 
pope with spiritual jurisdiction over the followers of Muham- 
mad throughout the world. In his Tableau giniral de V empire 
othotnan (Paris, 1788), 3 d'Ohsson, a Constantinople Armenian, 
was one of the first to give currency to this fallacy. The shrewd 
*Abd-al-yarmd II made capital of the idea to strengthen his 
prestige in the eyes of the European powers who had by this 
time come to dominate most of the Moslems in Asia and Africa. 
An ill-defined movement had its inception in the latter part of 
the last century and under the name pan-Islamism (al-Jdmfak 
al-Isl&tniyah) exerted special effort to bring about some unity 
of action to oppose the Christian powers. With Turkey as its 
rallymg-pomt it unduly stressed the ecumenical character of the 

1 Mawardi, pp 23-4, al-Nasafi, *Umdat *Aqtdat AH1 al-SunnaA, ed W. Cureton 
(London, 1843), pp 2S 9 

* As the last Moslem caliphs the Ottoman sultans had charge of these Prophetic 
treasures {dhakha*tr Nabauiyah), which Sultan Salim in 1 5 17 brought to Constantin- 
ople upon his return from the conquest of Egypt. The relics have ever since been 
enshrined in a special pavilion within the stronghold of the Grand Seraglio and 
cherished as the priceless insignia of the exalted office of the caliphate. 

• Vol t. pp 213 stf. 







♦Abdihams Hashim 

Umiyyah 'Abd-al-Muttalib 

rz — — n 

Abu-atvA? tfaxb 

Al-Hakam 'Affan Abu-Sufyan 
MarwXw *Uthman Mu'awiyah 

AlHanth Abu-Tolib Abu-Labab 'Abdullah + Aminah Al-'AbbSs tfamiab 


Mu'iiwiYAH was proclaimed cahph at Ihya* Qerusaiem) iriTht 
A.H. 40 (66b). 1 With his accession the seat of the provincial^ 
government, Damascus, became the capital of the Moslem call 
empire, though that empire was somewhat circumscribed. During^ 
the arbitration *Amr ibn-al-* As, Mu f awiyah's right-hand man, 
had wrested Egypt from *Alids, but al- e Iraq now declared 
al-Hasan, eldest son of *Ali and Fatirnah, the legitimate suc- 
cessor of \Ali, and Makkah and al-Madinah were lukewarm in 
their loyalty to the representations of the Sufyanids, who had 
failed to acknowledge Muhammad until the fall of Makkah and 
Avhose Islam was therefore considered of convenience rather than 

1 Tabart, vol. 11 » p 4., cf. Mas'udi, \o\ v, p 14. 



conviction* The interests of al-IJasan, who was more at home 
in the harem than on the throne, lay in fields other than those 
of imperial administration. It was not long before he abdicated 
in favour of his more able rival and retired to al-Madlnah to a 
life of ease and pleasure, a step which he was induced to take 
by Mu'awiyah's guarantee of a magnificent subsidy and pension 1 
which he himself had fixed and which included five million dir- 
hams from the Kufah treasury 2 plus the revenue of a district 
in Persia for the duration of his lifetime. Though he died at the 
age of forty-five (ca. 669), possibly poisoned 3 because of some 
harem intrigue, al-I;Iasan is said to have made and unmade 
no less than a hundred marriages, which earned him the title 
of mitlaq k (great divorcer). The Shi* ah laid the fatal act at 
Mu'awiyah's door and thus made al-ftasan a shahtd (martyr), 
in fact the "sayyid [lord] of all martyrs". 

His younger brother al-IJusayn, who had also lived in retire- 
ment at al-Madlnah throughout the rule of Mu'awiyah, in 680 
refused to acknowledge Mu'awiyah's son and successor YazTd, 
and in response to the urgent and reiterated appeals of the 
'Iraqis, who had declared him the legitimate caliph after al- 
ii asan and 'AH, started at the head of a weak escort of relatives 
(including his harem and devoted followers) for al-Kufah. 
'Ubaydullah, whose father Ziyad had been conveniently acknow- 
ledged by Mu'awiyah as his brother, was now the Umayyad 
governor of al-'Iraq and had established outposts on all the 
roads leading from al-rjijaz to ai~*Iraq. On the tenth of Muhar- 
ram, A.H. 61 (October 10, 680), *Umar, son of the distinguished 
general Sa'd ibn-abi-Waqqas, in command of 4000 troops sur- 
rounded al-ftusayn with his insignificant band of some two 
hundred souls at Karbala', about twenty-five miles north-west of 
ai- Kufah, and upon their refusal to surrender cut them down. 
The grandson of the Prophet fell dead with many wounds and 
his head was sent to Yazid in Damascus. The head was given 
back to al-yusayn's sister and son, who had gone with it to 
Damascus, 5 and was buried with the body in Karbala*. In 
commemoration of al-ftusayn's "martyrdom" the Shfah Mos- 
lems have established the practice of annually observing the 

1 See ibn-tfajar, vol. li, p. 13; Dlnawari, p. 231. * Tabari, vol. ii, p. 3. 

* Ya'qu'bi, vol. 11, p. 266. * Tbn-'AsaMr, vol. jv, p. 2x6, 1. ai. 

• Ibn-#ajar, vol. 11, p. 17. 

ch. xvn " ' x THE UMAYYAD CALIPHATE , . , 191 

first ten days of Muharfam as days of lamentation, and have 
developed a passion play stressing his "heroic" struggle and 
suffering* This annual passion play is enacted in two parts, one 
called 'Ashura (the tenth day) in al-Kazimayn (close by Bagh- 
dad) in memory of the' battle, and the other forty days after the 
tenth of Muharram in Karbala* entitled "the Return of the 

The blood of al-IJusayn, even more than that of his father, 
proved to be the seed of the Shfite "church", Shfism was bom 
on the tenth of Muharram. From now on the imamship in 'AH*s 
progeny became as much of a dogma in the Shfite creed as that 
of the prophethood of Muhammad in Islam. Yatutn (the day 
of) Karbala gave the Shfah a battle-cry summed up in the 
formula "vengeance for al-IJusayn", which ultimately proved 
one of the factors that undermined the Umayyad dynasty. In 
the other camp the Sunnites argued that Yazid was de facto ruler 
and that to question his authority constituted a treason punish- 
able with death. They insisted that the Shf ites should not view 
the facts otherwise. But how a people actually do view an event 
is usually more important as a moving force in history than how 
they should view it. The great schism was made in Islam and 
the breach has never since been filled. 

Although the Umayyads were for some time secure in the 
caliphate in so far as the 'Alids were concerned, the struggle 
was in reality three-cornered, for the third party was not yet 
eliminated. As long as the powerful Mu'awiyah lived 'Abdullah, 
a nephew of 'A'ishah and son of al-Zubayr who had fruitlessly 
disputed the caliphate with *Ali, kept his peace in al-Madmah. 
When Yazld, well known for his frivolity and dissipation, 
succeeded to the throne 'Abdullah declared openly against the 
new caliph and encouraged al-IJusayn to undertake the perilous 
step which cost him his life and left 'Abdullah the sole claimant. 
,A1I al-#ijaz proclaimed 'Abdullah. YazFd was quick to dispatch 
against the malcontents of al-Madinah a disciplinary force which 
included many Christian Syrians, and was headed by the one- 
- eyed Muslim ibn-'Uqbah, whose old age and infirmity necessi- 
„ tatcd his carriage all the way in a Utter. The punitive expedition 
encamped on the volcanic plain of al-IJarrah east of aKMadinah, 
. gave battle on August 26, 683, and was victorious. The story 
of the three days in which the unchecked Damascene soldiery 


sacked the city of the Prophet is apocryphal. The army then pro- 
ceeded to Makkah. On the way Muslim died and was succeeded 
in the chief command by al-Husayn ibn-Numayr al-Sakuni, 1 who 
had his catapults tain stones upon the IJaram (holy mosque) of 
Makkah on whose inviolable soil ibn-al-Zubayr had taken refuge. 
In the course of the siege the Ka f bah itself caught fire and was 
burned to the ground. The Black Stone was split in three pieces 
and the house of Allah looked "like the torn bosoms of mourning 
women". 8 While these operations were proceeding Yazld had 
died and ibn-Numayr, fearing consequent disorders in Syria, 
suspended on November 27, 683, the operations which had begun 
on September 24- The second civil war of Islam, which like the 
first between *Ali and Mu'awiyah was also a dynastic war, came 
to a temporary halt. 

Subsequent to the death of his rival and the consequent with- 
drawal of enemy troops from Arabian soil ibn-al-Zubayr was 
proclaimed caliph not only in al-rjijaz, where he had his seat, 
and in al- f Iraq, where his brother Mus'ab was made his repre- 
sentative, but in South Arabia, Egypt and parts of Syria, Over 
Damascus, however, al-Dahhak ibn-Qays al-Fihri, leader of the 
Qaysite (North Arabian) party which had favoured ibn-al- 
Zubayr, had been appointed by this caliph provisional regent. 
Al-Dahhak was finally crushed in July 684, at Marj Rahif 8 
— a second Siffih for the Umayyads — by his Kalbite (including 
the Yamanite or South Arabian) opponents, who supported the 
aged 4 Umayyad Marwan ibn-al-Hakam. The Kalbites were 
Syro-Arabs domiciled in Syria before the Hijrah and mostly 
Christianized. Marwan (684-5)* tne cousin of 'Uthman and 
formerly his secretary of state, then became the founder of the 
Marwanid branch of the Umayyad dynasty. He followed Mu- 
'awiyah II (683-4), Yazld's weak and sickly son, who had ruled 

1 Tabari, vol. », p, 2220; Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. 299. 

* Tabari, vol. ii, p. 427; al-Fakihi, al-Muntaqa ft Akhb&r vmrt-al-Qura, 
cd. F. Wfistenfeld (Lapng, 1859), pp. 18 seg.\ Azraqi, Ahhlar Afakkah, p. 32. 
The Ka'bah was rebuilt by ibn-al-Zubayr on the withdrawal of the Umayyad 

* A plain east of the village Marj "Adhra* not far from Damascus. See "Igd, 
vol. ii, pp. 320-21; Mas'Gdi, vol. v, p. 2ot. These internal feuds between the Qays, 
representing the new emigrants from North Arabia, and the Kalb, who were ever 
the staunch supporters of the Umayyad cause, were among the events which pre* 
cipitated the fall of the Umayyad dynasty. The Qaysi and Yamani parties figured 
even in (he modem politics of Lebanon and Syria, Sec below, p. 281. 

* Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. 304, L 19. 


only three months and left no successor. 1 But the defection of 
al-ftijaz under the rival caliph continued until Marwan's son 
and successor, *Abd-al-Malik, sent Bis iron-handed general al- 
rlajjaj, formerly a schoolmaster in al-Ta'if, at the head of a 
Syrian army which gave the coup de grace to the anti-caliphate. 
Beginning March 25, 692, al~$ajjaj pressed the siege against 
Makkah for six and a half months and used his catapults effect- 
ively. 2 Inspired by the heroic exhortation of his mother, Asm a',* 
daughter of abu-Bakr and sister of 'A'ishah, ibn-al-Zubayr 
fought valiantly but hopelessly until he was slain. His head was 
sent to Damascus * and his body, after hanging for some time 
on the gibbet, was delivered to his aged mother. With the death 
of ibn-al-Zubayr the last champion of the old faith passed away. 
*Uthman was fully avenged* if not by Muslim certainly by al- 
rlajjaj. The Ansar's (Supporters') power was for ever broken. 
After this debacle a number of them began to leave Makkah 
and al-Madtnah to join the armies operating in North Africa, 
Spain and other theatres of war* Henceforth the history of 
Arabia begins to deal more with the effect of the outer world on 
the peninsula and less with the effect of the peninsula on the 
outer world. The vigour of the mother "island" had spent itself. 

After gaining supremacy over the opposing parties Mu'awiyah uvC 
(661-80) was free to direct his efforts against the great enemy of ^ 
Islam to the north-west, the Byzantines. In e Akka (Acre) he so?< 
found soon after the conquest of Syria well-equipped Byzantine 
shipyards (sing, dor al-sinaah, whence Eng. arsenal) which he 
utilized for building the Moslem navy. These dockyards were 

1 The subjoined tret shows the Sufyamd branch of the Umayyad dynasty in it* 
relation to the founder of the Marwanld branch: 

Al- iakatn Aba-Sufyan 

2. YazSd 1^680-83) 
4. MawXk I (6vV3) 3- mJ'awiyah II (6S3-4) 

* DInawati, p 320> ibn-*AsaMr, toL ir, p. 50. * labati, vol. H t pp. 845-8. 

* Tsbsn, voLn, p, S52. 



probably the second after those of Egypt in Islamic maritime 
history. The Syrian yards, according to al-Baladhuri, 1 were 
transferred by later Umayyads to Sur (Tyre),* where they 
remained until the 'Abbasid period. This fleet must undoubtedly 
have been manned by Greco-Syrians accustomed to seafaring. 
The Arabians of al-rjijaz, the mainstay of Islam, had only little 
acquaintance with the sea, for it was a principle of *Umar's 
policy to let no body of water intervene between htm and his 
lieutenants. Such a policy explains, for instance, why 'Umar 
would not authorize the proposed invasion of Cyprus (Qubrus) 
by Mu'awiyah. It was , Umar , s successor, *Uthman, who was 
finally persuaded to yield a half-hearted assent to the invasion 
of the island; and it was in compliance with the caliph's order 
that Mu'awiyah had his wife accompany him (649). 3 Her presence 
was proof positive of the proximity of Cyprus and of the contem- 
plated ease with which it could be subdued. 

Mu*awiyah*s reign witnessed not only the consolidation but 
the extension of the territories of the caliphate* To this period 
belongs the expansion in North Africa for which f Uqbah ibn- 
Nafi* was in the main responsible. In the east the complete 
conquest of Khurasan was undertaken (663-71) from ai-Basrah, 4 
the Oxus was crossed and Bukhara in far-away Turkestan 
raided (674). Thus Mu'awiyah became not only the father of a 
dynasty but the second founder of the caliphate after *Umar. 

In securing his throne and extending the limits of Islamic 
dominion, Mu*awiyah relied mainly upon Syrians, who were 
still chiefly Christian, and upon the Syro-Arabs, who were mainlv 
Yamanites, to the exclusion of the new Moslem immigranto 
from al-fjijaz. Arabic chronicles dwell upon the sense of loyalty 
which the people of Syria cherished towards their new chief.* 
Though as a soldier he was certainly inferior to T Ali, as a military 
organizer Mu'awiyah was second to none of his contemporaries. 
He whipped the raw material which constituted his Syrian army 
into the first ordered and disciplined force known in Islamic war- 
fare. He rid the military machine of its archaic tribal organiza- 
tion, a relic of the ancient patriarchal days. He abolished many 

1 P. n$ = Hitti,p. iSt. 

* Consult Guy I-* Strange, Palatini under the Motltms (Boston, 1890), p. 342; 
cf. ibn-Jubayr, Ritfak (Leydcn, 1907), p. 305. s Above, p. 168. 

* Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. a$S; Baladhuri, p. 410; Jabari, vol. ii, pp. 166 stq« 

1 Tabari.vol.j, pp. 34 09- 1 0; Mas udi, voL v, pp. So, 104; dSIqd t vol. i,p. 207,1.31. 


traditional features of the government and on the earlier 
Byzantine framework built a stable, well-organized state. Out 
of seeming chaos he developed an orderly Moslem society. 
Historians credit him with being the first tn Islam to institute 
the bureau of registry and the first to interest himself in postal 
service, al-bartd? which developed under *Abd-al-Malik into a 
well-organized system knitting together the various parts of the 
far-flung empire. From among many other wives he chose as his 
favourite a Syro-Arab Kalbite of the banu-Bahdal, Maysun by 
name, who scorned court life at Damascus and yearned for the 
freedom of the desert. The verses attributed to her, though she 
may never have composed them, express the feeling of home- 
sickness which many Bedouins who were now passing into an 
urban state must have experienced. 5 

Maysun was a Jacobite Christian like her predecessor 
Na*ilah, 'Uthman's wife, who also belonged to the Kaib tribe. 
She often took her son Yazid, subsequently the successor of 
Mu'awiyah, to the bddiyah (Syrian desert), particularly to 
Palmyrena, in which her Bedouin tribe roamed and where the 
youthful crown prince became habituated to the chase, hard- 
riding, wine-bibbing and verse-making, Al-Badiyah from this 
time on became the school of the Umayyad princes, where they 
acquired the pure Arabic 3 unadulterated with Aramaicisms and 
where they also escaped the recurrent city plagues. Later 
Umayyad caliphs, including *Abd-al-Malik and al-Walld II, 
continuing the tradition, built country residences on the border 
of the Syrian desert and called them "ai-Badiyahs". 

Man§ur ibn-Sarjun (Gr. Sergius),* who figured in the treacher- 
ous surrender of Damascus at the time of the Arab invasion, 
was the scion of a prominent Christian family some of whose 
members had occupied the position of financial controller of 
the state in the last Byzantine period. Next to the supreme 
command of the army this office became the most Important 
in the Arab government The grandson of this M&nsur was the 
illustrious St, John (Yuhanna) the Damascene, who in his 

1 J?ax%rt\ p. 148. Sec beJow, p. 322, 

* AbiMtl-Fidl*, \o\* i, p< 303; Nicholson, Literary History % p< 195. 

* '/gdi vol. i, p f 293, i* 3Q- ~ 

* ^ or &e confusion in the Arabic chronicles Utween the name of this man ami 
ms son Sarjun ibn*Man$ur> consult Tabari, vol u\ pp. 205, 218, 339, Mas'udi. 
j «ff£U, pp. 302, 306, 307, 3 «; cf. Theophah *». p. 365. 


youth was a boon companion of Yazld. The caliph's physician, 
ibn-Uthal, was likewise a Christian, whom Mu'awiyah made 
financial administrator of the province of flims 1 — an unpre- 
cedented appointment for a Christian in Moslem annals. 1 The 
Umayyad poet laureate, al-Akhtal, another boon companion 
of Yazid, belonged to the Taghlib Christian Arabs of al-rjirah 
and was a friend of St. John. This poet of the court would enter 
the caliphal palace with a cross dangling from his neck and recite 
his poems to the delight of the Moslem caliph and his entourage. 
Jacobites and Maronites brought their religious disputes before 
the caliph, 3 who is reported by Theophanis* to have even rebuilt 
a Christian church in Edessa which had been demolished by an 

When in 679 Mu'awiyah nominated his son YazTd as his 
successor 5 and caused deputations to come from the provinces 
and take the oath of allegiance, he introduced into the caliphate 
the hereditary principle followed thereafter by the leading 
Moslem dynasties, including the 'Abbasids. Following this 
precedent the reigning caliph would proclaim as his successor 
the one among his sons or kinsmen whom he considered most 
competent and would exact for him an anticipatory oath of 
fealty, first from the capital and then from the other principal 
towns of the empire. 

No small measure of the success of the Caliph Mu'awiyah 
should be attributed to the circle of collaborators with whom he 
surrounded himself, particularly *Amr ibn-al-'As, the vicegerent 
over fertile Egypt, al-Mughirah ibn-Shu'bah, the governor of 
turbulent al-Kufah, and Ziyad ibn-Ablh, the ruler of malcontent 
al-Basrah. These three with their chief, Mu'awiyah, constituted 
the four political geniuses {duhdt) of the Arab Moslems. Ziyad 
was at first styled ibn-Ablh because of the doubt which clouded 
the identity of his father. His mother was a slave and prostitute 
in al-Ta if whom abu-Sufyan, Mu'awiyah 's father, had known. 
Ziyad was pro-'Alid. In a critical moment Mu'awiyah acknow- 
ledged Ziyad as his legitimate brother. 8 Ziyad proved a great 

1 !bn*'Asak»r, vol. v, p. 80 

* Wqubi, vol it, p 265 Wcllhausen, Rn(h s p. 85, considers the report of thi* 
appointment fictitious. 

1 WeHhausen, Reich, p. S4. 1 P. 356. 

1 Mas'udi, vol. v, pp. 69 73; df T a kan, vol ii, pp. 174*7. 

• Dlnawari, op. 232-3; Tabari, vol. ii t pp. 69*70, ibn-'Asakir, vol. v, p. 397. 



asset to his caliph brother. His unrelenting hand weighed 
heavily over al-Basrah, a centre of Shfism. After the death of 
al-Mughlrah he was elevated to the governorship of ai-Kufah, 
a position which made him the absolute ruler of the eastern part 
of the empire, including Arabia and Persia. With a trained body- 
guard 4000 strong who acted also as spies and police, he ruled 
tyrannically and tracked down mercilessly anyone who dared 
show favour to *AIFs descendants or revile Mu'awij'ah. 

In Mu'awiyah the sense of finesse politique was developed to 
a degree probably higher than in any other caliph. To his Arab 
biographers his supreme virtue was his /tilm, 1 that unusual 
ability to resort to force only when force was absolutely neces- 
sary and to use peaceful measures in all other instances. His 
prudent mildness by which he tried to disarm the enemy and 
shame the opposition, his slowness to anger and his absolute 
self-control left him under all circumstances master of the situa- 
tion. "I apply not my sword**, he is reported to have declared, 
"where my lash suffices, nor my lash where my tongue is enough. 
And even if there be one hair binding me to my fellowmen, I 
do not let it break: when they pull I loosen, and if they loosen 
I pull. 1 ' 2 The following is a copyof a letter he is supposed to have 
forwarded to al-rlasan on the occasion of the latter's abdication: 
"I admit that because of thy blood relationship thou art more 
entitled to this high office than I. And if I were sure of thy 
greater ability to fulfil the duties involved I would unhesitatingly 
swear allegiance to thee. Now then, ask what thou wilt." En- 
closed was a blank for al-rjasan to fill in, already signed by 
Mu'awiyah. 3 

Despite many excellences Mu'awiyah was no favourite with 
several of the historians whose works have come down to us. 
They regarded him as the first mahk (king) in Islam; and to the 
true Arab the title was so abhorrent that it was applied almost 
exclusively to non-Arab potentates. The historians* attitude was 
a reflection of that of the puritans, who accused him of having 
secularized Islam and changed the kkilajat al-nubuah (the 
prophetic, i.e. theocratic, caliphate) to a midk* — a temporal 
sovereignty* Among his profane creations, they point out, was 

* FaUri, p. 145J *I$d f vol, 11, p. 304; Mas'Gdi, vol. v, p. 410. 

* YaVjQlri, vol ii, p. 283; *Xqd % vol.i, p. 10* * T&bari, vol. it, p. 5, 

* lbu-Khald&n, Muqcddnvtch, pp. 169 Jff. Ya'qubi, vol. U, p. 757. 


the magfilrah, 1 a sort of bower inside the mosque reserved 
for the exclusive use of the caliph. The Friday noon sermon 
(khufbah) he read while seated." He was the first to institute a 
royal throne {sarzr al-mulk). z The Arabic annals, mostly com- 
posed in the 'Abbasid period or under Shi'ite influence, impugn 
his piety. The Syrian tradition, however, preserved in ibn- 
*Asakir, reveals him as a good Moslem. To his Umayyad 
successors he bequeathed a precedent of clemency, energy, 
astuteness and statesmanship which many tried to emulate,* 
though few succeeded. He was not only the first but also one 
of the best of Arab kings. 

1 Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. 265; Dlnawari, p. 229; T»bari, vol, ii, p. 70, 1. 20. 

* Ibn-al-*Ibri, p. 1S8. 

s Ibn-Khaldfln, Muqaddamak, p. 217; al*Qalqashandi, $ubfa al*A?sha t vol. iv 
(Cairo, 1914), p. 6. 

* Mas'udt, vol. v, p. 78. Mu'awiyah's tomb in the cemetery of [al-]Bab al«$agblr 
at Damascus is Rtill visited. 


WHILE Mu'awiyah was still insecure in his new position and 
had his hands full with domestic affairs he found it expedient 
to purchase (6$8 or 659) a truce from the Emperor Constans II 
(641—68) at the price of a yearly tribute mentioned by Theo- 
phams 1 and referred to in passing by al-BaIadhuri. s But soon 
afterward the tribute was repudiated and hostilities against the 
Byzantine possessions both by land and sea were pressed more 
zealously and persistently than by any of Mu'awiyah's immediate 
successors. Twice did Mu'awiyah stretch out his mighty arm 
against the enemy capital itself. The main object of these raids 
into Bilad al-Rum (the territory of the Romans, Asia Minor) 
was of course the acquisition of booty, though the dim spectacle 
of Constantinople may have beckoned beyond in the distant 
background* Gradually the razzias became annual summer affairs 
and served the purpose of keeping the army physically fit and 
well trained. Yet the Arabs never succeeded in establishing a 
permanent foothold in Asia Minor. Their main energy was 
directed eastward and westward along the lines of least resist- 
ance. Otherwise the story of Arab-Byzantine relations in Asia 
Minor and even across the Hellespont might have been different. 
On the north the lofty ranges of the Taurus and Anti-Taurus 
seem to have been eternally fixed by nature as the boundary line, 
and the Arabic language appears to have frozen upon their 
southern slopes. Though brought later by Saljuq and by Otto- 
man Turks within the political orbit of Islam, no part of Asia 
Minor ever became Arabic speaking. Its basic population from 
earliest antiquity, beginning with Hittite days, has always been 
non-Semitic, and its climate has proved too rigorous for Arab 
civilization to strike deep root in its soil* 

- The long cordon of Moslem fortifications stretching from 
Malatyah (or Mala$iyah, Melitene) by the upper Euphrates to 

* p U7 * P, 159, L i~ Hnti, p. 245- 



Tarsus near the Mediterranean coast and including Adhanah, 
al-MassTsah (Mopsucstia) and Mar'ash (Germanicia) had its 
units all strategically situated at the intersections of military 
roads or at the entrances of narrow mountain passes* These 
strongholds with their environs were called t awdsim. But 
t awdsim in the narrower sense meant the inner, the southern, 
line of fortresses within the military marches in contradistinction 
to the outer, northern, strip of land called thugkur? which shrank 
under the 'Abbasids, reaching only from Awl as on the Medi- 
terranean past Tarsus to Sumaysat(5amosata)on the Euphrates* 
The line guarding Mesopotamia to the north-east was styled 
al-thughur al~Jasartyak\ that guarding Syria, al-thughur al- 
Shdmtyah? Tarsus, which commanded the southern entrance 
of the celebrated pass across the Taurus known as the Cilician 
Gates and served as a military base for Arab attacks on the land 
of the Greeks, was no less than four hundred and fifty miles in 
a direct line from the Bosporus. The other pass by which the 
mountain range of the Taurus could be traversed lay to the north- 
east and was called Darb al-rjadath. It led from Mar*ash north 
to Abulustayn* and was less frequented. These Arab marches 
formed a "no man's land" and their strongholds changed hands 
again and again as the tide of war ebbed or flowed. Under the 
Umayyads and r Abbasids almost every foot was fought over 
repeatedly and bitterly; scarcely any land in Asia is more soaked 
in blood. 

As early as A.H. 34 (655), while Mu*awiyah was still governor 
of Syria under c Uthman, his fleet under Busr ibn-abi-Artah 1 
in co-operation with the Egyptian fleet under 'Abdullah ibn- 
abi-Sarh met the Greek navy led by the Emperor Constans II, 
son of Heraclius, at Phoenix (modern Finike) on the Lycian 
coast and scored the first great naval victory of Islam. This 
maritime engagement is referred to in Arabic chronicles as dhu 
(or dhat) -al-Sawari (that of the masts).* The Arabs transformed 

1 Cf. Guy Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Cahphaie (Cambridge, 1905), 
p. 12S. 

1 IstaVhri, pp 67-S« 1 Baladhuri, pp. 183 seq. t 163 $eq< 

* YaqGt, vol. i, pp. 93 '4; cf. ke Strange, Eastern Cahphaie, p. 133, The Byzan- 
tine name was Ablastha, the Greek Arabissus, late Arabic al-Bustan. 

k Ibn-'Abd-al-Hakam, pp. lS9»oo;ibn*rjfajar, vol. i, 153. 

* Either after the name of the place itself, which is said to have been rich in cypress 
trees from which masts {saw art) could be fashioned, or because of the number of 
masts of the many ships engaged. 

the sea-fight into a hand-to-hand encounter by tying:each Aiab: 
ship to a Byzantine vessel. 1 The battle proved a second Yarrriilk; 
the Byzantine forces were completely destroyed. 2 Al- Tabari? de- 
scribes the water of the sea as saturated with blood. The Arabs, 
however, did not take advantage of the victory and push, on 'to 
Constantinople, probably because of the murder of r Uthman, 
which occurred about this time, and other concomitant civil 

Three times was Constantinople attacked by Umayyad forces, 
the only occasions on which Syro- Arabs ever succeeded in reaching 
the high triple wall of the mighty capital* The first was in A.H. 49 
(669) under the leadership of the crown prince Yazld, whose 
warriors were the first ever to set eyes on Byzantium/ Yazld was 
sent by his father to support the land campaign of Fadalah ibn- 
*Ubayd aUAnsari, who had wintered (668-9) in Chalcedon (the 
Asiatic suburb of Byzantium), and as a response to those puritans 
who might look askance at Yazld's intended nomination as 
successor to the reigning caliph. The siege laid by Yazld and 
Fadalah in the spring of 669 was raised in the summer of the 
same year; Byzantium had a new and energetic emperor, Con- 
stantino IV (668-8$). 

In Jegend Yazld distinguished himself for bravery and forti- 
tude below the walls of Constantinople and earned the title 
fata al-Arab (the young champion or hero of the Arabs). 
The Aghatii* relates that alternate shouts of jubilation were 
heard from two separate tents as the Arabs or the Byzantines 
made headway in the battle. On learning that one tent was 
oteupied by the daughter of the king of the Rum and the other 
by the daughter of Jabalah ibn-al-Ayham, Yazld was spurred to 
extraordinary activity in order to seize the Ghassanid king*s 
daughter. But the real legendary hero of the campaign was the 
aged /abu-Ayyub al-Ansari, the standard-bearer of the Prophet, 

; who had harboured Muhammad in al-Madmah on the occasion 
of/i&^^ Yazid's contingent, was 

^esired More for the blbssing it might bring. Tradition asserts that 

h in ^ died of dysentery and was 



became a shrine even for the Christian Greeks, who made pil- 
grimages to it in time of drought to pray for rain, 1 During the 
siege of Constantinople in 1453 by the Turks, the tomb was 
miraculously discovered by rays of light — an episode comparable 
to the discovery of the holy lance at Antioch by the early 
Crusaders — and a mosque was built on the site. Thus did the 
Madinese gentleman become a saint for three nations. 

The second attack on Constantinople was made in the so- 
called seven years' war 2 (54-60/674-80), which was waged 
mainly between the two fleets before Constantinople. The Arabs 
had secured a naval base in the Sea of Marmara on the penin- 
sula of Cyzicus, 3 mistaken for "the isle of Arwad"* in the Arab 
chronicles. This served as winter headquarters for the invading 
army, whence hostilities were resumed every spring. The Arab 
accounts of these campaigns are badly confused. The use of 
Greek fire is supposed to have saved the city. This highly com- 
bustible compound, which would burn even on water, was in- 
vented by a Syrian refugee from Damascus named Callinicus, 
The Greek accounts dilate on the disastrous effect of this fire on 
the enemy ships. Agapius of Manbij, 6 who follows Theophanes, 
emphasizes the habitual use of Greek fire by the Byzantines, 
who were the first to employ it in warfare. 

To this period also belongs the temporary occupation of 
Rhodes (Rudis, a 672) and Crete (Iqrltish, 674). Rhodes was again 
temporarily occupied in 717-18. On a previous occasion (654) 
it had been pillaged by the Arabs, and two years later the re- 
mains of its once famous colossus were sold for old metal to a 
dealer who is said to have employed nine hundred camels to 
carry them away. Later it was again conquered by Arab 
adventurers from Spain. 

On the death of Mu'awiyah (680) the Arab fleet withdrew 
from the Bosporus and Aegean waters, but attacks against 
"the territory of the Romans" were by no means relinquished. 

1 Ibn-Sa'd, vol. iii, pt. 2, p. 50; followed by Tabari, vol. iii, p. 2324. Both 
authorities fix A.H. 52 as the year of his death. 

1 See J. B. Bury, A History of the later Roman Empire (London, 1899), vol. ii, 
p. 310, n. 4* 

* Thcophanis, pp. 3S3*4- 

4 Tabari, vol. ii, p, 163; Baladhuri, p. 236 « Hitti, p. 376, 
% "Kttab aKUnwan," pt. 2, ed. A. Vasihev, in Patrohgia Orientalis (Paris, 
1012), vol. viii, p. 492. 
« Baladhuri, p. 236 - Hitti, p. 375. 


We read of almost yearly summer incursions (saifah) t though 
none assumed importance until the caliphate of Sulayman 
(715-17). Sulayman considered himself the person referred- to 
by the current Jtadxth that a caliph bearing a prophet's name was 
to conquer Constantinople. The second and last great siege of 
Constantinople was conducted (August 716-September 7x7 l ) 
under his reign by the stubborn Maslamah, the caliph's brother. 
This remarkable siege, the most threatening of the Arab attacks, 
is the one best known because of the many descriptions extant. 
The besiegers were reinforced both by sea and by land and 
received aid from Egyptian ships. They were provided with 
naphtha and special siege artillery. 2 The chief of Maslamah's 
guard, 'Abdullah al-Battal, particularly distinguished himself 
and won the title of champion of Islam. In the course of a later 
campaign (740 4 ) he was killed. In later tradition, as Sayyid 
Ghazi, ai»Battal became one of the Turkish national heroes. His 
grave, at which a Baktashi takiyah (monastery) with a mosque 
has risen, is still shown near Eskt-Shahr (medieval Dorylanim). 
His was another instance of "an illustrious Moslem for whom 
Christians have raised a statue in one of their churches *\ 4 

At last Emperor Leo the Isaurian (7 1 7-41)1 a soldier of humble 
Syrian origin from Mar' ash who knew Arabic as perfectly as 
Greek, 6 outwitted Maslamah and saved the capital. In connec- 
tion with this siege we have the first historical reference to the 
chain which barred the way of the attacking fleet into the Golden 
Horn. The famous Greek fire and the attacks of the Bulgars 
wrought havoc in the ranks of the invaders. Famine, pestilence 
and the rigours of an unusually severe winter also did their 
share. But Maslamah persisted. The death of the caliph in Syria 
did not deter him from pushing the siege. But the order of the 
new caliph, 'Umar ibn-*Abd-al-*Aziz (717-20), he had to heed. 
On the way back a tempest finished the work begun~by the 
Byzantines; out of the 1800 vessels, if we are to believe Theo- 
phanis* 6 only five were spared to reach port in Syria. The Arab 
armada was gone. The Syrian founder of the Isaurian dynasty 
was hailed the saviour of Europe from the Arab Moslems as 
Hcraclius, the Armenian founder of the Heraclean dynasty, had 
* Taban, vol. ii t p 1346: cf. Bury, vol. ti t p 401, n. z, 
*\ - * Kstabat-Uyun j*.cA//a2fijty,<d. deGoeje (Lcyden, 1871), pt. 3, p. 24. 
^ , T? 1 ^' Y ?J* v ' l?l6 * k * Mas'ildi, voL vin f p. 74. 

/ AV*«r. i ty4» tP L3,* *S * Pp. 3SS.399. 



before him been declared the deliverer of Christendom from 
heathen Persia. Only on one other occasion after this did an 
Arab host venture to make' its appearance within sight of 
Constantinople, and that when Harun, son of the Caliph al- 
Mahdi, encamped at Scutari (Chrysopolis) in 782 and the Empress 
Irene hastened to make peace by agreeing to pay tribute. The 
"city of Constantine" was not again to see a Moslem army 
beneath its walls until some seven centuries had passed and 
a new racial element, the Mongoloid Turks, had become the 
standard-bearers of the religion of Muhammad. 

Though ending in failure, this determined and energetic 
expedition by Maslamah, like the one preceding it, has left many 
a legendary souvenir, including tales of the building of a mosque 
by the caliph's brother in Constantinople, 1 of the erection by him 
of a fountain 8 and a mosque* at Abydos (Abdus) and of his 
entrance on horseback into St. Sophia. Writing in 985, al- 
Maqdisi 4 has this to say: "When Maslamah ibn- e Abd~al-Malik 
invaded the country of the Romans and penetrated into their 
territory he stipulated that the Byzantine dog should erect by 
his own palace in the Hippodrome (mayddn) a special building 
to be occupied by the [Moslem] notables and noblemen when 
taken captive". 11 

One factor in the check of the Arab policy of northward pene- 
tration was the activity of the Christian Mardaites (rebels) in the 
service of the Byzantine cause. A people of undetermined origin 
leading a semi-independent national life in the fastnesses of 
al-Lukkam (Amanus), these Jarajimah (less correctly Jurajimah), 
as they were also styled by the Arabs, furnished irregular troops 
and proved a thorn in the side of the Arab caliphate in Syria. 
On the Arab-Byzantine border they formed "a brass wall" 6 in 

1 Ibn-Taghn-Birdi, ohNuj&m al-Z&ktrah fi Muluk Mifr w-al-Q&ktrah, ed. 
W. Popper (Berkeley, 1909-12), vol. n, pt 2, p. 40, 11. 12-13, refers to a Fatfmid 
khutbak pronounced in this mosque. See lbn-al-Qalanisi, Dhayl TJrikh Dtmashq, 
ed. H. F. Amedroz (Beirut, 1908), p. 68, U. 27*8. The mosque survived in tradition 
in the Mamluk period. 

1 Itm-Khurdadhbih, cbMasalxk w*al-Mam&hk t ed. dc Goeje (Lcydcn, 1889), 
p. 104, 1. 1; Mas'udi, vol. ii, p. 3x7, calls the place Andalus* 

* Ibn al-Faqlh (al-Hamadhani), Kttab aUBuldan^ ed de Goeje (Leyden, 1885), 
p. 145, L 15; Yaqut, vol. i, p. 374i refers to the town under the name Andus, a mis- 
take for Abdus. 

* P. I47» 

* This building, al-Bala$, is referred to in Yaqut, vol* i, p. 709, as being in use 
at the time of Sa>f-al-Dawlah al-Hamdani (944-67). For etymology of balSf see 
below, p. 501, o. i 8 Theophanes, p. 364. 


defence of Asia Minor. About 666 their bands penetrated into 
the heart of Lebanon and became the nucleus around^which 
many fugitives and malcontents, among whom were the 
Maronites, grouped themselves. Mu'awiyah agreed to the pay-, 
ment of a heavy annual tribute to the Byzantine emperor in - 
consideration of his withdrawal of support from this internal 
enemy, to whom he also agreed to pay a tribute. About 689 
Justinian II once more loosed the Mardaite highlanders ; 
on Syria, and *Abd-al-MaliIc, following "the precedent, of 
Mu'awiyah", 1 accepted the new conditions laid down by the 
emperor and agreed to pay a thousand dinars weekly to the 
Jarajimah. Finally the majority of the invaders evacuated Syria 
and settled in the inner provinces or on the coast of Asia Minor, 
where they became seafarers; others remained and constituted 
one of the elements that entered into the composition of the Maro- 
nite community that still flourishes in the northern Lebanon. 

* Baladhuri, p. 160, 1. 8 « Hitti, p. 247 , 1. 28. 


Marwan (6S3-5), the founder of the Marwanid branch of the 
Umayyad dynasty, was succeeded by his son r Abd-al-Malik 
(685-705), the "father of kings". Under 'Abd-al-Malik's rule 
and that of the four sons who succeeded him 1 the dynasty at 
Damascus reached the meridian of its power and glory. During 
the reigns of al-Walld and Hisham the Islamic empire reached 
its greatest expansion, stretching from the shores of the Atlantic 
Ocean and the Pyrenees to the Indus and the confines of China 
— an extent hardly rivalled in ancient times and surpassed in 
modern times only by the British and Russian empires. To this 
glorious period belong the subjugation of Transoxiana, the 
reconquest and pacification of North Africa and the acquisition 
of the largest European country ever held by Arabs — Spain. 

This era witnessed the nationalizing, or Arabicizing, of the 
administration, the introduction of the first purely Arab coinage, 
the development of the postal service and the erection of such 
monuments as the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem — the third 
holiest sanctuary in Islam. 

At his accession and during his first decade as cahph ' Abd-ai- 
Malik was hemmed in by many foes, and like his great pre- 
decessor, Mu*awiyah, whose counterpart he was, had to face 
enemies on various fronts. Yet when he died at the close of a 
second decade he passed on to his son al-Walld a consolidated 
and pacified empire that included not only the whole world of 
Islam but also new conquests of his own. Al-Walid proved a 
worthy successor of a capable father. 

The acquisition of Syria, al-'Iraq, Persia and Egypt under 
*Umar and 'Uthman having brought to an snd the first stage 
in the history of Moslem conquest, the second now begins under 
f Abd-al-Malik and al-Walld. 

* Al-Waifd (705-15), Sulayrnan (7l5- r 7>. Vazld II (720-24) and Hisham (724- 
743) *Umar (717-20), -who interrupted the filial succession, was a sod of *Abd«al« 
Malik's brother •Abd-al-'AzIz. 



The brilliant military achievements of these two reigns centre 
on the names of amajjaj jbn-Yusuf al«Thaqafi in the east and 
Musa ibn~Nusayr in the west 

Al-IJajjaj, the young schoolmaster of al-Ta*if 1 in akftijaz 
who had laid down the pen and taken up the sword in support 
of the tottering Umayyad throne, was appointed governor of 
Arabia after having crushed (692) at the age of thirty-one the 
formidable pretender 'Abdullah ibn-al-Zubayr, who for nine 
years had held the title and power of caliph. In two years al- 
yajjaj pacified al-I-Iijaz and with it al-Yaman and even al- 
Yarnamah to the east, and was in December 694 summoned 
by 'Abd-al-Malik to perform a similar task in turbulent and 
dissatisfied al-'Iraq, whose people were "men of schism and 
hypocrisy".* Here the 'Alids and the Kharijites had continually 
made trouble for the Umayyads. The unexpected arrival of al- 
yajjaj at the famous mosque of al-Kufah, in disguise and accom- 
panied only by twelve cameleers, his brusque mounting of the 
pulpit and removal of the heavy turban which veiled his face, 
and his fiery oration, are among the most dramatic and popular 
episodes recounted in Arabic literature* The proclamation of 
his policy in unequivocal terms showed the 'Iraqis from the 
very start that his would be no kid-glove methods of dealing 
with a disloyal populace. Introducing his oration with a verse 
quoted from an ancient poet: 

*'I am he who scattercth darkness and climbeth lofty summits. 
As I lift the turban from my face ye will knovy me 1 ', 

the speaker continued, "O people of al-Kufah! Certain am I that 
I see heads ripe for cutting, and verily I am the man to do it, 

Methinks I see blood between the turbans and the beards " 5 

In fact no head proved too mighty for the relentless Umayyad 
viceroy to crush, no neck too high for him to reach. Even Anas 
ibn-Malik, the prolific traditionist and highly respected Com- 
panion of the Prophet, accused of sympathy \vitb the opposition, 
had to wear around his neck a collar bearing the viceroy's seal.* 
Human lives to the number of 120,000 5 are said to have been 

x Ibn-Rustah, p. aifi, ibn-Durayd, Ishtiqaq, p. 1S7. 

* Ya'qflb?* vol, ii, p. 326; Mas'udi, vol. v, p. 295, 

* Mubmad, JCamif, pp. 215- 16; cf. Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. 326; Mas'fidi, vol. v, p, 294, 
4 Taban, vol* h, pp. S54-5. 

* Ibtv&y Ibri, p. 595; cf. Mas'udi, vol. r, p. 382; Tcnhth, p. 31S,* Tabari, vo L ii, 



sacrificed by this governor of al-*Iraq, who is represented by the 
Arab historians, most of whom, it should be noted, were Shl'ites 
or Sunnites writing during the 'Abbasid regime, as a blood- 
thirsty tyrant, a veritable Nero. In addition to his blood- 
thirstiness, his gluttony and impiety are favourite themes with 
the historians. 1 

Justifiable or not, the drastic measures of al-rjiajjaj did not fail 
to restore order both among the rebellious Basrans and Kufans 
and throughout his vast viceroyalty, which included al-*Iraq 
and Persia. His lieutenants, led by al-Muhallab ibn-abi-Sufrah, 
practically exterminated (698 or 699) the Azraqis, 2 the most 
dangerous to Moslem unity of all the Kharijites, who under the 
leadership of Qatari ibn-al-Fuja'ah had acquired control of 
Karman, 3 Faris and other eastern provinces. On the opposite 
coast of the Persian Gulf, *Uman, which in the days of the 
Prophet and * Amr ibn-al-*As had been nominally brought under 
Islam, was now fully incorporated with the Umayyad realm. 
From his newly built capital on the west bank of the Tigris, 
Wasit (medial), so called from its half-way position between the 
two key cities of al-'Iraq — al-Basrah and al-Kufah 4 — the Syrian 
garrison of al-rlajjaj held all these territories in submission. His 
blind faith in his Syrian troops, like his untainted loyalty to the 
Umayyad cause, knew no bounds. 

With his domain pacified and well rounded out, the energetic 
viceroy now felt free to authorize his lieutenants to penetrate 
further east. One of them, c Abd-aI-Rahman ibn-Muhammad 
ibn-al-Ash*ath, a scion of the ancient royal line of Kindah and 
governor of Sijistan, who later led a frightful revolt against the 
authority of al-rlajjaj, was sent (699-700) against the Zunbli 
(less correctly Rutbll), 5 Turkish king of Kabul (in modern 
Afghanistan), who had refused to pay the customary tribute. 6 

1 Dinawari, Akhbar t pp. 320-22; Mas'udi, vol. vii, p. 218; Tabari, vol. ii # pp. 
1 122*3; ibn-'Asakir, vol. iv, p. 81. 

s So called from their first leader, N5rV ibn-al-Azrnq, who taught that all followers 
of other than Khanjite doctrine were without exception infidels and doomed to 
death with their wives and children; Shahrastani, pp. S9 90, 

* Or Kirman; Yaqut, \ol. iv, p. 263. 

* Yaqut, vol. iv, pp. 881-2; ci\ Tabari, vol. ii, pp. 1125-6. The town is but a 
mound of ruins. 

5 Wellhauscn, Reick t p. I44» n, 3. "ZunbTl" was a title. These kings may ha\ e been 

* Almost all the subjects of this and other kings in Central Asia were Iranian; the 
d> nasties and armies were mostly Turkish. 





Khwiqand ~* " Osh 





£ttv*ettf*tss so? £09 


'Abd-al-Rahman^ campaign at the head of such a magnificently 
equipped army that it was styled "the army of peacocks*' 1 was 
entirely successful, but his exploits paled before those of Qutay- 
bah ibn-Muslim and Muhammad ibn-al-Qasirn al~Thaqafi, a 
son-in-law of al-ftajjaj. On the recommendation of al-#ajjaj t 
Qutaybah was in 704 appointed governor over Khurasan with his 
capital at Marw; according to al-Baladhuri 2 and al-Tabari s he 
had under his command in Khurasan, which he held as a sub- 
ordinate of al-I? ajjaj, 40,000 Arab troops from ai-Basrah, 7000 
from al-Kufah and 7000 clients. 

The Oxus,* which until now had formed^ the traditional, 
though not historical, boundary-line between "Iran and Turan", 
i.e. between the Persian-speaking and the Turkish-speaking 
peoples, was now under al-Waiid crossed and a permanent 
Moslem foothold established beyond it. In a series of brilliant 
campaigns Qutaybah recovered (70s) lower Tukharistan with 
its capital, Balkh (the Baktra of the Greeks), conquered (706-9) 
Bukhara in al-Sughd (Sogdiana) and the territory around it 
and reduced (710-12) Samarqand (also in al-Sughd) and Khwa* 
mm (modern Klitwa; to the west, in 713-1 5 he led an expedition 
into the Jaxartes provinces, particularly Farghanah, thus estab- 
lishing nominal Moslem rule in what were until recent times 
known as the Central Asian khanates. The Jaxartes rather than 
the Oxus formed the natural political and racial frontier between 
Iranians and Turks, and its crossing constituted the first direct 
challenge by Islam to the Mongoloid peoples and the Buddhist 
religion, Bukhara, Balkh and Samarqand had Buddhist mon- 
asteries. In Samarqand Qutaybah fell upon a number of idols 
whose devotees expected instant destruction to overtake him 
who dared outrage them. Undeterred, the Moslem general set 
fire to the images with his own hand, an act which resulted in a 
number of conversions to Islam.* But no large numbers accepted 
the new faith until the pious caliphate of *Umar II (717-20), 
when they were accorded the concession as Moslems of paying 
no tribute. Likewise the fire-temple of Bukhara with its sanc- 
tuary was demolished. Thus Bukhara with Samarqand and the 
province of Khwarizm were soon to become centres of Arabic 

* \ Mn'^T*"**** p- 314. * p. 423* * Vol, a, p P 1290-91. 

Modem Aran Darya, Ar. and Pers JayhGu. Jayhun for the Oxus and SayfcOn 
for its sister river, the Jaxartes (Sir Darya), arc adaptations of Oihon and Pison. of 
Gen, 2 ; 13, a, * BalSdhun, p. 42 r . 



culture, nurseries of Islam in Central Asia, corresponding to 
Marw and Naysabur (Pers. Nishapur) in Khurasan, Qutaybah is 
said by al-Tabari 1 and others to have conquered (715) Kashghar 
in Chinese Turkestan and even to have reached China proper, 
but this tradition is evidently an anticipation of the later con- 
quest by Nasr ibn-Sayyar and his successors. 2 This Nasr was 
appointed by the Caliph Hisham (724-43) as the first governor 
of Transoxiana and had to reconquer, between 738 and 740, most 
of the territory overrun earlier by Qutaybah. The Arab agents 
'established by Qutaybah were merely military overseers and 
tax-collectors functioning side by side with the native rulers, who 
retained the civil administration. An attempt in 737 on al- 
Khazar, Huns beyond the Caucasus who were later Judaized, 
failed. In 751 the Arabs occupied al-Shash (Tashkand), thus 
definitely establishing the supremacy of Islam in Central Asia 
so firmly that it was not further disputed by Chinese. 3 

Thus was Transoxiana (?na wa? a al-7iahr, what lies beyond the 
river) at last incorporated with the rising empire of the caliphs* 
The world of Islam was thereby brought into vital contact with 
a new racial element and a new culture in itself old — the Mon- 
golian. We shall later deal at length with the significant part 
played by these fresh recruits to Islam. 
Conquests The other column in the eastern theatre of war was in the 
fa lndm meantime moving southward under Muhammad ibn-al-Qasim. 
Advancing in 710 at the head of a considerable army, of which 
6000 were Syrians, this son-in-law of al-$ ajjaj subdued Mukran, 
pushed on through what is now termed Baluchistan and in 
711-12 reduced Sind, the lower valley and delta of the Indus 
(Sindhu). Among the cities captured here were the seaport 
al-Daybul, which had a statue of the Buddha (Ar. Budd) "rising 
to a height of forty cubits* 1 , 4 and al-Nlrun (modern PJaydarabad). 
The conquest was extended (713) as far north as Multan in 

1 Vol. U, p 1275. 

* H, A. R. Gibb in Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies^ London Insttlu* 
Uon, vol. u (1921), pp 467-74. 

* The native rulers of Samarqand, Khwarism and Shash were perhaps related by 
marriage to the khan, or khaqan, of the Western Turks, though they appear in Arab 
histories with such Persian titles as khuddh, shah and dtkqan. The ruler of Sogdiana 
residing at Samarqand, also boTe the Persian title tkhskld, as did the king of Far 
ghSnah. See ibn-Khurdadhbih,pp 39 40; Ya'qubi, vol n,p 479. The Arabs applied 
the term "Turk" to any non-Persian people north-east of the Oxuk 

* Ya'qubi, vol. u, p 346. 


southern Panjab, the seat of a renowned shrine of the Buddha» 
where the invaders found a large crowd of pilgrims, whom they 
took captive . This led to a permanent occupation of Sind and 
southern Panjab, but the rest of India was unaffected until the 
close of the tenth century, when a fresh invasion began under 
Malimud of Ghaznah. Thus were the Indian border provinces 
for ever Islamized. As late as 1947 the new Moslem state of 
Pakistan was born. Contact between Semitic Islam and Indian 
Buddhism was permanently established, just as farther north 
contact was made with Turkish culture, Al-IJ ajjaj had promised ' 
the governorship of China to whichever of his two great generals, 
al-Thaqafi or Qutaybah, should first set foot on its soil, But 
neither of them ever crossed the frontier. China proper, exclusive 
of Turkestan, with its present-day fifteen or more million 
Moslems, was never brought within the orbit of Islam. Sind in" 
the south, like Kashghar and Tashkand in the north, became 
and remained the easternmost limit of the caliphate. 
Against While these major operations were going on in the east the 
tincf ytan * Byzantine front was not entirely neglected. In the early part of 
his reign, and while ibn-al-Zubayr was contesting the caliphate, 
'Abd-al-Malik followed "the precedent of Mu'awiyah" 1 in pay- 
ing tribute (A.H, 70/689-90) to the "tyrant of the Romans", 
whose agents, the Christian Jarajimah of al-Lukkam, had then 
penetrated the Lebanon. But when the internal political hori- 
zon cleared hostilities were resumed with the eternal enemy. In 
692 Justinian II was defeated near the Cilician Sebastopolis, and 
about 707 Tyana (al-Tuwanah), the most important fortress of 
Cappadocia, was taken. After capturing Sardis and Pergamum, 
Maslamah, as we learned before, undertook his memorable siege 
of Constantinople (August 716-September 717). The Moslem 
army which crossed the Dardanelles at Abydos was equipped 
with siege artillery, but the armada had to anchor near the walls 
of the city in the Sea of Marmora and in the Bosporus, as 
passage into the Golden Horn was barred by a chain. This was 
the second time the Byzantine capital had been besieged by an 
Arab army (above, p. 203). Scarcity of provisions and attacks 
by the Bulgars forced the Arabs to retire after a whole year of 
beleaguering. 2 Armenia, which had been conquered for Mu'awi- 

1 See above, p. 205. Baladhuri, p, 160. 

» Consult Theophanes, pp. 386-99; Tabari, vol ii, pp 1314-17; ibn-al-Athlr, 
vol. v, pp. 17-19. 


yah by rjabib ibn-Maslamah al~Fihri as early as 644-5, had 
later taken advantage of the ibn-al-Zubayr debacle to revolt, 
but was now again reduced,* 

The conquests on the western front under Musa ibn-Nusayr 
and his lieutenants were no less brilliant and spectacular than 
those on the east by al-FIajjaj and his generals. Soon after the. 
subjugation of Egypt (640-43) raids were carried westward into 
Ifrlqiyah, 2 but a thorough conquest of that territory was not 
undertaken until the foundation of al-Qayrawan 3 in 670 by 
'Uqbah ibn-Nafi*, an agent of Mu*awiyah, who used it as a base 
for operations against the Berber tribes. f Uqbah, who is said 
by tradition to have advanced until the waves of the Atlantic 
stopped his horse* suffered a martyr's death (683) near Biskra 
in modern Algeria, where his tomb has become a national 
shrine. Even then the Arab hold on Ifriqiyah was so precarious 
that soon after 'Uqbah's death his successor had to evacuate the 
territory. Not until the governorship of rlassan ibn-al-Nu*man 
al-Ghassanl (ca. 693-700) was an end put to Byzantine authority 
and Berber resistance. With the co-operation of a Moslem fleet, 
rlassan drove the Byzantines from Carthage (698) and other 
coast towns. He was then free to take the field against the 
Berbers, now led by a prophetess (An kdkinafi) 1 who exercised 
a mysterious influence over her followers. The heroine was at 
last defeated by treachery and killed near a well that still bears 
her name, Blr aKKahinah. 

rjassan, the r,econqueror and pacifier of Ifrlqiyah, was followed 
by the famous Musa ibn-Nusayr, under whom the government 
of the region, administered from al-Qayrawan, was made inde- 
pendent of Egypt and held directly from the caliph in Damascus, 
Musa, whose father (together with the grandfather of ibn- 
Ishaq, the Prophet's biographer) was one of the Christian captives 
who fell into the hands of Khalid ibn-al-Walld while they were 
studying the Gospels in the church at *Ayn al-Tamr, 5 extended 

1 Baladhuri, pp, 205 «s Hrtti, pp. 322 stg. 

* More exact than "Ifriqiyah"; name borrowed by Arabs from Romans and given 
to the eastern >art of Barbary, the word Maghrib being reserved for the western part 
Today the term IfrKjiyah includes the whole continent of Africa, 

' £zqxr Pers. k&rttar % whence Eng. caravan, 

4 BatXdhuri, p, 229; tbn-Khaldun, vol. vtt, pp. 8-0; ibn^Idhari, at-Bayan al- 
MvgMfi Jkhbdr a?-M<xghn6 x ed. R. Dozy (Leyden, i$48),voL i, pp. 20-24. That 
ahe belonged to a Jewish tribe is doubtful. 

* Others claim hewas a Lnkhmid or Yamanite. Cf. Baladhuri, p. 230; ion-* IdhSri, 
vol i, p. 74. 



the boundaries of his province as far as Tangier. This brought 
Islam definitely and permanently into contact with another 
racial group, the Berbers. The latter belonged to the Hamitic 
branch of the white family, and in prehistoric times prob- 
ably formed one stock with the Semites. 1 At the time of the 
Moslem conquest most of the Berbers on the strip of fertile 
land bordering on the sea had become Christians. In this 
region Tertullian, St. Cyprian and above all St. Augustine 
became princes among early Christian fathers. Otherwise the 
population was not deeply touched by Roman civilization, for 
the Romans and Byzantines lived mainly in towns on the coast 
and represented a culture that was quite alien to the mentality 
of these nomadic and semi-nomadic North Africans. On the other 
hand Islam had a special attraction for people in such a cultural 
stage as that of the Berbers; moreover, the Semitic Arabs, akin 
to the early Phoenicians who had colonized parts of northern 
Africa and developed in Carthage a formidable rival to Rome, 
readily established intimate relations with their Hamitic cousins. 
Punic survived in country places until shortly before the Moslem 
conquest. This explains the seemingly inexplicable miracle of 
Islam in Arabicizing the language and Islamizing the religion of 
these semi-barbarous hordes and using them as fresh relays in the 
race toward further conquests. Thus did the blood of the con- 
querors iind fresh ethnic strains for its enrichment, the Arabic 
tongue a vast field for conquest and rising Islam a new foothold 
in its climb toward world supremacy. 

After the subjugation of the North African coast as far as the 
Atlantic by Musa, 2 the way was open for the conquest of the 
neighbouring south-western part of Europe. In 711 Tariq, a 
Berber freedman and lieutenant of Musa, took the momentous 
step of crossing into Spain on a marauding expedition. The raid 
developed into a conquest of the Iberian Peninsula (al-Andalus) 
(below, pp. 493 seq.). This constituted the last and most sensational 
of the major campaigns of the Arabs and resulted in the addition 
to the Moslem world of the largest European territory ever held 
by them. After the capture of several towns in southern Gaul the 
advance of the Arab-Berber army was checked in 732 between 

1 Eng. "Berber", generally considered as coming ultimately from Ar. Barbar, 
may have come, together with the Arabic form, from L, barban (originally Gr.), bar- 
barians, applied in current usage by the Latinized cities of Roman Africa to all natives 
who did not adopt the Latin tongue. 1 Ibn-'Abd-aM^akam, pp. 203*5 


Tours and Poitiers by Charles MarteL This point marks the 
north-western limit of Arab penetration. 

The year 732 marked the first centennial of the Prophet's 
death. From this vantage point in history and geography let us 
pause to view the general situation. One hundred years after the 
death of the founder of Islam his foHowers were the masters of 
an empire greater than that of Rome at its zenith, an empire 
extending from the Bay of Biscay to the Indus and the confines 
of China and from the Aral Sea to the lower cataracts of the 
Nile, and the name of the prophet-son of Arabia, joined with the 
name of almighty Allah, was being called five times a day from 
thousands of minarets scattered over south-western Europe, 
northern Africa and western and central Asia. Damascus, which 
young Muhammad according to tradition hesitated to enter 
because he wished to enter paradise only once, had become the 
capital of this huge empire. 1 In the heart of the city, set like a 
pearl in the emerald girdle of its gardens, stood the glittering 
palace of the Umayyads, commanding a view of flourishing plain 
which extended south-westward to Mount Hermon 2 with its 
turban of perpetual snow. Al-Khadra* 3 (the green one) was its 
name. Its builder was none other than Mu'awiyah, founder of 
the dynasty, and it stood beside the Umayyad Mosque which 
al-Walid had newly adorned and made into that jewel of architect- 
ure which still attracts lovers of beauty. In the audience chamber 
a square seat covered with richly embroidered cushions formed 
thfc caliphal throne, on which during formal audiences the caliph, 
in gorgeous flowing robes, sat cross-legged. On the right stood 
his paternal relatives in a row according to seniority, on the 
left his maternal relatives/ Courtiers, poets and petitioners stood 
behind. The more formal audiences were held in the glorious 
Umayyad Mosque, even today one of the most magnificent 
places of worship in the world. In some such setting must al- 
Walfd (others say Sulayman, who had just ascended the throne) 
have received Musa ibn-Nusayr and T ariq, the conquerors of 
Spain, with their vast train of prisoners 6 including members of 

1 For other traditions extolling Damascus see ibn-'Asikir, vol. i t pp. 46 seq* 

* Ai-Jebat xtUShaykk t the greyheaded mountain. 

„ * Ibn-Jubayr, p. 269, 1. 3: "aJ-Qubbah aMCha<Jra ,f , the green dome, in AgJkSni 
vol. vi, p. 150, * Aghcni, vol. iv, p. 80. 

* 30*000 according to al-Maqqari, Afa/£ <jA7& min Ghupt cLAndatus at*/taf& 9 
ed, Dosy, Wright tt 4. (Leydcn, 1855), vol. i, p, 144; cf . ibn-al-Athii, vol. iv, p. 448. 




the fair-haired Gothic royalty and undreamt-of treasures. If any 
single episode can exemplify the zenith of Umayyad glory it 
is this. 

The Arabicization of the state under *Abd-al~Malik and al- Nai 
Walid consisted in changing the language of the public registers j£* 
(diwan) from Greek to Arabic in Damascus and from Pahlawi 
to Arabic in al-'Iraq and the eastern provinces and in the creation 
of an Arabic coinage. With the change of language a change in 
personnel naturally took place. The early conquerors, fresh from 
the desert and ignorant of book-keeping and finance, had to 
retain in the exchequer the Greek-writing officials in Syria 
and the Persian-writing officials in al-*Iraq and Persia who were 
familiar with the work* But now the situation had changed. 
Undoubtedly certain non-Arab officials who by this time had 
mastered the Arabic language were retained, as was the old 
system itself. The transition must have been slow, beginning 
under 'Abd-at-Malik and continuing during the reign of his 
successor. This is probably the reason why some authorities 
ascribe the change to the father and others to the son. x The step 
was part of a well-planned policy and not due to any such trivial 
cause as that put forth by al-Baladhuri — the urination of a 
Greek clerk in an inkwell. 8 In al-*Iraq and its eastern depend- 
encies it was evidently the famous al-^ajjaj who initiated the 

In pre-Islamic days Roman and Persian money was current in 
al-Bijaz, together with a few IJimyarite silver coins bearing the 
Attic owl. 'Urnar, Mu'awiyah and the other early caliphs con- 
tented themselves with this foreign coinage already in circulation 3 
and perhaps in some cases stamped on it certain koranic super* 
scripuons. A number of gold and silver pieces were struck before 
the time of *Abd-aI-Malik, but those were imitations of Byzan- 
tine and Persian types* *Abd-al-Malik struck at Damascus, in 
695, the first gold dinars and silver dirhams which were purely 
Arabic. 4 His viceroy in al-*Iraq, ai-IJajjaj, minted silver in al- 
Kufah in the following year, 5 

Besides instituting a purely Islamic coinage and Arabicizing 
the administration of the empire, r Abd-al-Malik developed a 

1 Balttdhaii, pp. 193, 300-301; Mawardi, pp. 349'S<>, *Iqd t vol ii, p 322. 

5 193 ^Hitta, p. 30s « Baladhtiri, pp. 465 6. 

* Ta»an, *ol* n, i>* 939* Btladhun,? 240 

* C£ VaqOt, BsldSn, vol, iv* p. 8S& 



From *Kat»ilcf dcr cntniahitkm Afunren, 
JCZntfhckt Mustm su BtrhrC {IValttr 
tit Gruyttr 6* Cc , Berlin) 


Retaining on the obverse the figures of 
Herachus. Herachus Constannne, and 
Heraclconas, and on the reverse a 
modified B>zantine cross No ramt 
name is given. 

regular postal service, 1 using relays of horses for the conveyance 
of travellers and dispatches between Damascus and the pro- 
vincial capitals. The service was designed primarily to meet the 
needs of government officials and their correspondence, and the 
postmasters were charged 
among other duties with the 
task of keeping the caliph 
posted on all important hap- 
penings in their respective 

In connection with the 
monetary changes it may be 
well to note the fiscal and 
administrative reforms that 
took place at this time. In 
principle no Moslem, what- 
ever his nationality might be, 
was under obligation to pay 
any tax other than the 2akah 
or poor rate, though in practice the privilege was often limited 
to Arabian Moslems. Taking advantage of this theory many 

new converts to Islam, par- 
ticularly from al-*lraq and 
Khurasan, now began to 
leave the villages where 
they had worked as agri- 
culturists and flock to the 
cities, hoping thereby to 
join the army as mawdti 
(clients). 2 This constituted 
a double loss to the treasury, 
for at conversion their taxes 
were greatly reduced and 
upon becoming soldiers they 
were entitled to a special subsidy. Al-yajjaj took the neces- 
sary measures to restore such men to their farms* and reim- 
posed on them the high tribute they had paid before conversion, 

1 Al *Uman, al-Tarif bi al-Mttffa!ah al-Skarlf (Cairo, 1312J, p 185. 

1 This * ord, used later for freedmen, had at this time no connotation of inferiority. 

* Mubarrad, p. 286 

Fr« m 'JCMUhr dtr ertiHaluthen Mttnsen in Bnhnrr 
Muuri {U alfrr de Grityter Cv , Berlin) 

Bearing on the obverse his image and hi* 
name and on the reverse on four 
steps together with the skakadah and 
the mint nitnc, Ba'labakk. An imitation 
of a Byzantine cola 


Which included the equivalent of kharaj (land tax) and juyah 
(poll tax). He even made Arabs who acquired property in a 
kharaj "territory pay the usual land tax* 

The Caliph *Umar II (717-20) tried to remedy the resultant 
dissatisfaction amongthcNeo-Moslems byre-establishing the old 
principle of his earlier namesake that a Moslem, whether Arab 
or mawla, need pay no tribute whatsoever, but he insisted that 
the kharaj land was the joint property of the Moslem com- 
munity. 1 He thus prohibited after the year A.H. 100 (718-19) 
the sale of kharaj lands to Arabs and Moslems and declared that 
if the owner of such land be converted his property should revert 
to the village community and he might continue to use it as a 

Though inspired by the best of intentions, 'Umar's policy was 
not successful. It diminished the revenues of the state and in- 
creased the number of clients in the cities. 3 Many Berbers and 
Persians embraced Islam to enjoy the pecuniary privileges thus 
accorded them. Later practice reverted to the system of al- 
IJajjaj, with minor modifications. It was not until then that the 
distinction was drawn between jizyah, a burden which "falls 
off with the acceptance of Islam", and kharaj, which does not. 
Since the jizyah was a comparatively small item, the treasury 
continued to receive its main income from the kharaj and did 
not in the long run appreciably suffer. 

Other cultural and agricultural reforms are attributed to the 
versatility and energy of al-yajjaj. He dug a number of new 
canals and restored the large one between the Tigris and the 
Euphrates. He drained and tilled submerged or uncultivated 
lands. He contributed to the development of diacritical marks in 
Arabic orthography to distinguish such similarly written letters 
as ba% tS and tha, dal and dhal x and to the adaptation from 
Syriac of vowel signs, dammah (u) y fatkah (a) and kasrak (i), 
inserted above and below the consonants. 3 In this orthographic 
reform he was prompted by the desire to prevent errors in the 

* lba-$a*d f vol v, pp. 262, 277; ibn-'Asakir, vol. iv, p. 80; Ya'qftbi, vol. ii, 
p. 362; ibn-aUJawzi, Strat 'Umar ibnSAbd-tVAxiz (Cairo, 1331), pp. 88-9. 

* Ibn-vaJ-JaTyzi, pp 90-100. 

* XbtvKhallikan, W&JayM nM'y&n (Cairo, 1209), vol. i^pp, 220 2i=de SUne, 
Ihn KhttllikStfs Biographical Dictionary (Paris, 1843), vol, i, pp. 359-60, cf. 
Suyuft jfytffc, vol. ii, p. 171; Thsodor Noldeke, Chtehichte des Qorans (Gottingcn, 
*B6o), pp* 3<>5*9; cf. G. C. Miles, Journal, //car East Studies, vol. viii (1948), 
pp. *3*-43« * " 


recitation of the sacred text, of which he evidently prepared a 
critical revision. He who started life as a schoolmaster never lost 
interest in literature and oratory. His patronage of poetry and 
science was notable. The Bedouin satirist Janr, who with his 
rivals al-Farazdaq and al-Akhtal formed the poetical trium- 
virate of the Umayyad period, was his panegyrist as well as poet 
laureate of the Caliph c Umar. His physician was a Christian 
named Tayadhuq. 1 The "slave of Thaqif, as he was dubbed by 
his 'Iraqi enemies, died in Wasit, June 714, at the age of fifty- 
three, leaving a name that is undoubtedly one of the greatest in 
the annals of Islam, 
Architect- Among the outstanding achievements of the period were the 
uralmomi- manv architectural monuments, some of which have survived 
to the present day. 

In Palestine the Caliph Sulayman built on the ruins of a more 
ancient town the city of al-Ramlah, 2 which he made his resi- 
dence. Traces of his palace could be seen there until the time of 
the first World War, and the minaret of his White Mosque (which 
after the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus and the Dome of the 
Rock in Jerusalem became the third leading sanctuary of Syria) 
as rebuilt by the Mamluks in the early part of the fourteenth 
century is still standing. With Sulayman the imperial capital 
ceased to be the home of the caliphs Hisham resided in al» 
Rusafah, a Roman settlement near al-Raqqah. 3 In 691 *Abd-al- 
Malik erected in Jerusalem the magnificent Dome of the Rock 
(Qubbat al-Sakhrah), wrongly styled by Europeans "the Mosque 
of ^mar", in order to divert thither the pilgrimage from Makkah 
which was held by his rival lbn-al-Zubayr. That 'Abd-al-Malik 
was the builder is attested by the Kufic inscription still preserved 
round the dome. Over a century later the structure underwent 
restoration by the 'Abbasid Caliph ai-Ma*mun (813-33), 
unscrupulously substituted his own name for that of *Abd*al- 
Malik but inadvertently forgot to change the date. 4 The 'Abbasid 
architect set close together the letters of the new name, crowding 
them into the narrow space originally occupied by the name of 

1 Or TryadhQq, Gr. Theodocus* Ibn al-*Ibri f p. J94. 

* Baladhun, p. 143 = Hitti, p. 220, 

* Identified by others with al-Hayr al-Sharqi, east of Palmyra. 

4 The inscription in its present form runs as follows: Hath built this dome 

CU. Xix ' THE 2ENITH-0K UMAYYAD POWER ' . / 221 

'Abo-al-Malik- 1 Close by the Dome and in the southern section 
afthc sacred area c Abd-al-Malik erected another mosque, pos- 
sibly on tke site of an earlier church. Local usage designates this 
mosque al-Masjid al-Aqsa (the farther mosque 2 ), but the term 
Is also used -in a more general sense to include the whole collec- 
tion of sacred buildings on that area* Al-rjaram al-Sharlf (the 
moble sanctuary) is another name for this group, only less sacred 
than the two PJarams of Makkah and al-Maduiah. 

The greatest Umayyad builder, however, was al-Walid, son 
of 'Abd-al-Malik, whose rule was one of comparative peace and 
opulence. So great was this caliph's penchant for building that 
during his reign whenever people in Damascus met together 
fine buildings formed the chief topic of conversation, as cookery 
and the fair sex did under Sulayman, and religion and the Koran 
under 'Urnar ibn-*Abd-al-*Aziz. s This al-Walrd, who lived only 
forty years, enlarged and beautified the great mosque of Mak- 
kah/ rebuilt that of al-Madfnah, erected in Syria a number of 
schools and places of worship and endowed institutions for the 
lepers, the lame and the blind. 5 He was perhaps the first ruler 
in medieval times to build hospitals for persons with chronic 
diseases, and the many lazar houses which later grew up in 
the West followed the Moslem precedent 0 From a church in 
Ba'labakk al-Walld removed a dome of gilded brass which he 
set over the dome of his father's mosque in Jerusalem, But his 
greatest accomplishment was the conversion in Damascus of the 
site of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which he seized 
from his Christian subjects, into one of the subllrnest places of 
worship in the world. This Umayyad Mosque is still considered 
the fourth holiest sanctuary of Islam, after the three IJarams of 
Makkah, al-Madmah and Jerusalem. Before al-Walid the Mos- 
lems shared a part of the sacred enclosure with its Christian 
owners* To justify the seizure later tradition claimed that the 
eastern half of the city was captured by force and the western 
by capitulation and that the two Moslem contingents, each 

1 P« yogtf*, & knpU dzJSruiahm (Paris, 1864), pp. 85-6, was the first to dis- 
cover the falsification, 

* From a reference to the site in Koran 17 : 1. AI-Buraq made a stop there. 
Fcknti, p. 173, ^ate al-Wattd the builder of al-Aqsa- 

* FokAri, p. 173; Tafeari, vol. u, pp. 1272-3. 
, * Bal&dhuri, p. 47 = Hitti, p. 76. 

» Jaoari, voL ii, p. 1271; ibn-al-Faqlh, pp. 106-7, 
- » Consvdt ffitti, art "Chivalry: Arabic", Encyclop^U of the Secial Scitncet. 


without knowing what the other had done, met in the metro- 
politan cathedral. The cathedral stood on the site of an earlier 
Roman temple almost in the centre of the town. Over the lintel 
of the southern portal of the enclosure, long since walled up, an 
ancient inscription in Greek can still be read; "Thy kingdom, 

0 Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth 
throughout all generations". 1 

Of the remaining caliphs in this period of Umayyad glory 
there is little to be said save of 'Umar II (717-20) and 
Hisham. 'Umar was entirely under the influence of the theo- 
logians and has enjoyed through the ages a reputation for piety 
and asceticism that stands in glaring contrast with the alleged 
impiety of the Umayyad regime. He was, in fact, the Umayyad 
saint. To the later tradition, which expected a ma&iith (one sent) 
to appear every hundred years to renovate Islam, he became the 
one sent "at the head" of the second century (A.H, 100), just as 
al-Shafi'i stood "at the head" of the third. His biographer 2 tells 
us that 'Umar wore clothes with so many patches and mingled 
with his subjects on such free terms that when a stranger came 
to petition him he would find it difficult to recognize the caliph. 
When one of his agents wrote that his fiscal reforms in favour 
of new converts would deplete the treasury f Umar replied, 
"Glad would I be, by Allah, to see everybody become Moslem, 
so that thou and I would have to till the soil with our own hands 
to earn a living." 8 'Umar discontinued the practice established 
in the time of Mu'awiyah of cursing *Aii from the pulpit at the 
Friday prayers.* The piety of 'Umar, who died at the age of 
thirty-nine, saved his grave from the desecration which was visited 
by the 'Abb as ids upon the other tombs of the preceding dynasty. 
With Hisham (724-43), the fourth son of * Abd-al-Malik, the 
Umayyad golden age came to a close. After Mu'awiyah and 
c Abd-al-Malik, Hisham was rightly considered by Arab author- 
ities the third and last statesman of the house of Umayyah.* 
When his young son Mu'awiyah, ancestor of the Spanish 
Umayyads, fell from his horse while hunting and was killed, the 

1 Cf. Ps. 145 : 13; Hcb. 1:8. * Ibn-al-Jawn, pp. I73*4» *45 s*q* 

* Ibid. pp. 99 loo. Kxtab al-Uyun w*aU$adaiq Ji Akkbar a!-f{aga*tq, cd. de 
Goeje (Leydcn, 1865), p. 4. 

* Fa&Ari,p. 176. 

* Mas'udi, vol. v f p. 479; cf. Ya'qubi, vol. u, p. 393; ibn-Qutaybah, Afa*drif, 
p. 185; abu-al-Kida*. vol. i, p. 216; Kit&b aI-X/yun t p. 69. 


father's comment was^ "I brought Jiim up for the caliphate arid 
he pursues a fox!" 1 His governor of ai-'Iraq, Khalid ibn- 
'Abdullah al-Qasri, under whom the region prospered especially 
through the engineering and drainage works of ftassan al- 
Nabati, appropriated for himself a surplus of 13,000,000 dir- 
hams after squandering revenue to nearly three times that sum. 8 
Subsequently Khalid met the same fate that befell others like 
him — he was apprehended in 738, jailed, tortured and required 
to give an account of the state moneys and make repayments. 
His case is only one illustration of that maladministration and 
corruption in the body politic which helped to undermine the 
Umayyad throne and render its occupants an easy prey for their 
'Abbasid rivals. 

1 T»biri, vol.ti, pp. 1738-9. 
* Tabari, v< >h p 1642; Ya'qubi, vol. li, p. 387. 

By tcurttxy tfE. T. Xtntll 
Frvm " iihmttnuttc AVfcj &ud Mowfraphx. 1 So* 67 (JS r />w Ytrk< 2939)* 

BY AVWALlD (t 7I5> 

Bearing on the obverse a cross with the inscription TB, i.e. two ounces, and on 
the mersc a Kufic inscription stating that the caliph has recognized this as equiva- 
lent to two tvugfyats. Probably the earliest inscribed Moslem weight thus far found. 



THE administrative divisions of the empire in Umayyad and 
even \Abbasid times corresponded in general to the provinces 
of the preceding Byzantine and Persian empires. They com- 
prised: (i) Syria-Palestine; (2) al-Kufah, including al-*Iraq; (3) 
al-Basrah with Persia, Sijistan, Khurasan, al-Bahrayn, *Uman 
and probably Najd and al-Yamamah; (4) Armenia; (5) al-rjijaz; 
(6) Karman and the frontier districts of India; (7) Egypt; 
(8) Ifnqiyah; (9) al-Yaman and the rest of South Arabia. 1 Gradu- 
ally combinations were made and five viceroyalties resulted. 
Mu'awiyah combined al-Basrah and al-Kufah into one vice- 
royalty, 2 that of al- f Iraq, which included most of Persia and % 
eastern Arabia and had al-Kufah for its capital. Later the 
viceroy of al-*Iraq was to have a deputy governor for Khurasan 1 
and Transoxiana, usually residing at Marw, and another for 
Sind and Panjab. Likewise al-yijaz, al-Yaman and Central 
Arabia were combined into another viceroyalty. Al-Jazlrah (the 
northern part of the land between the Tigris and Euphrates) 
with Armenia, Adharbayjan and parts of eastern Asia Minor 
formed the third. Lower and Upper Egypt constituted the fourth. 
Ifnqiyah, which embraced northern Africa west of Egypt, 
Spain, Sicily and other adjacent islands formed the fifth vice- 
royalty with al-Qayrawan as its seat of government. 

The threefold governmental function of political administra- 
tion, tax collection and religious leadership was now directed as 
a rule by three different officials. The viceroy [amtr y sdfyib) would 
appoint his own t dmil (agent, prefect) over any particular dis- 
trict and simply forward the name to the caliph. Under Hisham 
(724-43) we find the newly appointed governor of Armenia and 

1 CL ibn-Khaldun, vol. iii, pp. 4, io, 15, 17, 134-41; Alfred von Krcmcr, Cutter- 
gesckuhte des Orients unier den Ch alt/en , vol. i (Vienna, 1875), pp. 162-3. 
* Ya'qubi, vol ii, p. 272. 



Adharbayjan remaining in Damascus and sending a naib (ac- 
credited deputy) in his stead. The viceroy had full charge of 
political and military administration in his province, but quite 
often the revenues were under a special officer, sahib al-khardj } 
responsible directly to the caliph. Mu'awiyah was apparently the 
first to appoint such an officer, whom he sent to al-Kufah. 1 
Previously the government of a province in the Moslem empire 
had meant chiefly its financial administration. 

The revenue of the state was derived from the same sources as 
under the orthodox caliphate, chief among which was tribute 
from subject peoples. In the provinces all expenses of local 
administration, state annuities, soldiers' stipends and miscellane- 
ous services were met from the local income, and only the balance 
went to the caliphal treasury. Mu'awiyah's measure of deducting 
the zakah, about 2I per cent, from the fixed annuities of the 
Moslems, 2 bears a close resemblance to the income tax of a 
modern state* 

The judiciary had to do with Moslems only, all non-Moslems 
being allowed autonomy under their own religious heads. This 
explains why there were judges only in large cities. The Prophet 
and the early caliphs administered justice in person, as did their 
generals and prefects in the provinces, for the various functions 
of government were as yet undifferentiated. The first purely 
judicial officials in the provinces received their appointment from 
the governors. Under the 'Abbasids appointment by the caliphs 
became more common. Tradition, however, credits 'Umar with 
having appointed a judge (q ddi) over Egypt as early as A.H< 23 
(643).* After 661 we find in that country a regular series of judges 
succeeding one another. They were always recruited from the 
faqih class, whose members were scholars learned in the Koran 
and Moslem tradition. Besides deciding cases they administered 
pious foundations (wagf) and the estates of orphans and im- 

Discovering that some of his signed correspondence was being 
forged, Mu'awiyah created a bureau of registry,* a kind of state 
chancery, whose duty it was to make and preserve one copy of 

* Ibn-Khaldun, vo]. ui, p. 4, L 24. * Ya'oubi, vol. ii, p. 276, 1 10. 
AMCtmii, ICUSh at4Vu!ah t ed. Guest (Beirut, 100S}, pp. 300-301. See also 

ibn-Qutaybah/£/r/3* ahAkhbnr, vol t, p. 61. 

* mwan cMdtim, "bureau of the signet". Tabari, vol. u, pp. 205-6; Fakhri t 


each official document before sealing and dispatching the 
original. By the time of *Abd-ai-Malik the Umayyads had 
developed a state archive in Damascus. 1 
Military The Umayyad army was modelled in its general organization 
Sro" 1 "" ***** tnat of the B y zantines - The division was into five corps: 
centre, two wings, vanguard and rearguard. The formation as 
of old was in lines. This general plan continued until the time 
of the last caliph, Marwan II (744-50), who abandoned the old 
division and introduced the small compact body of troops called 
kurdus (cohort). 2 In outfit and armour the Arab warrior was hard 
to distinguish from the Greek. The weapons were essentially the 
same. The cavalry used plain and rounded saddles not unlike 
those of the Byzantines and precisely like the ones still in fashion 
in the Near East. The heavy artillery was represented by the 
ballista (farrddafi), the mangonel (manjaniq) and the battering- 
ram (dabbabaht kabsk). Such heavy engines and siege machines 
together with the baggage were carried on camels behind the 

The forces kept at Damascus were chiefly Syrians and Syrian- 
ized Arabians, Al-Basrah and al-Kufah were the main recruiting 
grounds for the army of all the eastern provinces. Under the 
Sufyanids the standing army numbered 60,000, entailing a 
yearly expenditure of 60,000,000 dirhams, including family 
stipends. 3 Yazjd HI (744) reduced all annuities by 10 per cent, 
and thereby won the sobriquet ndqts (diminisher, also defi- 
cient). 4 Under the last Umayyad the army is said to have reached 
i2o,ooo, 6 a figure which is probably a mistake for 12,000. 

The arab navy was likewise an imitation of the Byzantine 
model. The fighting unit was a galley with a minimum of twenty- 
five seats on each of the two lower decks. Each seat held two men, 
and the hundred or more rowers in each ship were armed. But 
those who specialized in fighting took up their positions on the 
upper deck. 

Royal The evenings of the caliphs were set apart for entertainment 
Ilfe and social intercourse. Mu'awiyah was particularly fond of 

1 Mas'Sdi, vol. v, p. 239. 

1 Taban, vol. ii, p. 1944, ibn-Khaldun, vol. Ui,p. 165, 1. 16 (cf. p, 195, U. 25-7); 
ibn-al-Athir, vol. v, p 267, 11. 7-8. 
8 Mas'udi, vol. v t p. 195. 

* Ibn al-Athlr, vol. v, p. 220; Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. 401. 

1 Fakhri ) p. 197; abu-al-Fida*, vol. 1, p. 222. See below, p. 2S5. 


listening to historical narratives and anecdotes, preferably South 
Arabian, and poetical recitations, To satisfy this desire he im- 
ported from al-Yaman a story-teller, *Abid ibn-Sharyah, who 
entertained the caliph through many long nights with tales of 
the heroes of the past. The favourite drink was rose sherbet, 
celebrated in Arabic song 1 and still enjoyed in Damascus and 
other Eastern towns. It was relished particularly by the women* 

Mu'awiyah's son YazTd was the first confirmed drunkard 
among the caliphs and won the title Yaztd ul-khumur % the Y&zJd 
of wines. 2 One of his pranks was the training of a pet monkey, 
abu-Qays, to participate in his drinking bouts, 8 Yazld, we are 
told, drank daily, whereas al-Walld I contented himself with 
drinking every other day; Hisham, once every Friday after the 
divine service, and 'Abd-al-Malik only once a month, but then 
so heavily that he perforce disburdened himself by the use of 
emetics. 4 Yazid II felt such attachment to two of his singing 
girls, Sallamah and $ ababah, &at when the latter was choked on 
a grape which he playfully threw into her mouth the passionate 
young caliph fretted himself to death. 5 But the palm for drinking 
should be handed to his son al-Waild II (743-4), an incorrigible 
libertine, who is said to have gone swimming habitually in a pool 
of wine of which he would gulp enough to lower the surface 
appreciably.* Al-Waiid is reported to have opened the Koran 
one day, and as his eye fell upon the verse "And every froward 
potentate was brought to naught", 7 he shot the sacred book to 
pieces with his bow and arrow, meanwhile repeating in defiance 
two verses of his own composition. 8 

This caliph spent his time in his desert castles, one of which 
stood by al-Qaryataynjinidway between Damascus and Palmyra* 
The Aghdni* has preserved for us an eye-witness's report of one 
of his debauched drinking parties. As always, dancing, singing 
and music served as the handmaids of drinking. When the caliph 

1 Agham 7 y&. xv, p, $ t I, 12, 

* *iqd t voL iu, p. 403; Kuwayri, fttka)ah r vol. iv, p. 91. 

* Mas'udt, vol, p. t$f m 

* Most of our information about the lighter side of the caliphs' lives comes from 
' A#k int, primarily a literary work, end similar hooks, which should not be taken too 

iUerufy. AgUm t vol. j> p. 3, gives this criterion for the choice of data "elegance 
that pleases the onlooker and entertains the hearer", 

* XttSb cVUy&n : (1865), pp. 40-41. of. AghSm, vol. xui, p. 165. 

* AI-Nawty, tfclhat aUKumayt (Cairo, 1290), p. 08. 

Sur, 14:18, * A$Um t vol. vi, p. 125. » Vol. ii, p 73. 


was one of those who maintained reasonable self-respect he 
screened himself behind curtains which separated him from the 
entertainers. Otherwise, as in the case of al-Walid, he joined 
the party on a footing of equality. 1 

Such festivities as these were nevertheless not entirely lacking 
in cultural value. They undoubtedly encouraged the develop- 
ment of poetry, music and the esthetic side of life in general and 
were not always mere orgies. 

Among the more innocent and fashionable pastimes which 
engaged the interest of the caliphs and their courtiers were 
hunting, horse-racing and dicing. Polo, which became a favourite 
sport under the 'Abbasids, was probably introduced from Persia 
towards the end of the Umayyad penod, and cock-fights at the 
time were not infrequent. The chase was a sport early developed 
in Arabia, where the saluki (saliiqt, from Saluq in al-Yaman) 
dog was at first exclusively used. The cheetah (fahd) came on the 
scene later. Legend makes Kulayb ibn-Rabl'ah, hero of the War 
of Basus, the first Arabian to use it in hunting. The Persians 
and Indians had trained this animal long before the Arabians. 
Yazld I, son of Mu*awiyah, was the first great hunter in Islam 
and the first who trained the cheetah to ride on the croup of a 
horse He adorned his hunting dogs with gold anklets and as- 
signed to each a special slave. 2 Horse-racing was extremely 
popular among the Umayyads. Al-Walid, son of 'Abd-al-Malik, 
was one of the first caliphs to institute and patronize public 
races. 8 His brother and successor, Sulayman, had just completed 
arrangements for a national competition in horse-racing when 
death overtook him.* In one of the courses organized by their 
brother Hisham the number of racers from the royal and other 
stables reached 4000, " which finds no parallel in pre-Islamic or 
Islamic annals". 5 A favourite daughter of this caliph kept horses 
for racing. 6 

The ladies of the royal household seem to have enjoyed a 
relatively high degree of freedom. A Makkan poet, abu-Dahbal 
al-Jumahi, did not hesitate to address love poems to 'Atikah, the 
beautiful daughter of Mu'awiyah, of whom he had caught a 
glimpse through the lifted veils and curtains as she was on a pil- 

1 AI-Jahi?, al Taj fi Akhlaq al'Muiuk, ed Ahmad Zaki (Cairo, 1914), p. 32. 

* Fakhrt, p 76 * Mas'Gdt, vol. vi, pp. 13-17. 

* Ibn-al-Jawzi, Strat *Umar y p 56. 1 Mas'flcb, vol. v, p. 466. 

* KttSh at 'ty-un (1865), p- 69, 1. X2. 

* ch.'xx social conditions UNDER THE UMAYYAD5 ,229 ~ 

grimage and whom he later followed to her father's capital. The 
caliph had at last to "cut off the tongue of the poet" by offerings 
him a subsidy and finding him a suitable wife. 1 Another poet, 
the handsome Waddak al-Yaman, ventured to make love to one 
of the wives of al-Walld I in Damascus in spite of the threats of 
the caliph, and finally paid for his audacity with his life. 2 The 
influence exercised by the shrewd and pretty *Atikah, grand- 
daughterof Mu'awiyah, over her husband-caliph, *Abd-al-Malik, - 
may be illustrated by the story which tells how she locked her 
door when angry with the caliph and refused to open it until a 
favourite courtier came weeping and falsely said that one of his 
two sons had killed the other and that the caliph was intent on 
executing the fratricide* 8 The harem system, with its concomitant 
auxiliary of eunuchs, was not, it seems, fully instituted until the 
time of al-Walld II. 4 The first eunuchs were mostly Greeks and 
were evidently introduced into the Arab world following the 
Byzantine precedent, 5 

It is safe to assume that Damascus has not much changed its Th« 
general tone of life and character since its days as the Umayyad ttp 
capital. Then, as now, in the narrow, coveredstreets the Damascene 
with his wide trousers, red pointed shoes and huge turban could 
be seen rubbing shoulders with the sun-tanned Bedouin in his 
loose gown surmounted by kUftyah (head shawl) and % iqal (head 
band) and occasionally meeting a European-dressed Ifranji* 
Here and there the aristocrat, the well-to-do Damascene, might 
be seen on horseback cloaked in a white silk 'o&f and armed with 
a sword or lance. A few women, and those all veiled, cross the 
streets; others stealthily peep through the latticed windows of 
their homes overlooking the bazaars and public squares. Sherbet 
sellers and sweetmeat vendors raise their voices to the highest 
pitch in competition with the incessant tramp of the passers-by 
and the multitude of donkeys and camels laden with the varied 
products of the desert and the sown. The city atmosphere is 
charged with every kind of smell which the olfactory sense is 
capable of perceiving. 

\ $*f*f? VO l* Vi ' Pp * 1S8 * 6t * 1 PP- 36 seq. y vol. xa, p. 49. 

* Mas Odi, vol. v, pp, 273-5. 4 Aghdm, vol to, pp, 7S.9. 

Jj B « Bu *y» T&e Imperial Administrative System in the Ninth Century 
(London, 19x1), pp. 120 se$r, Charles Diehl, Byutnce: grandeur tt decadence (Paris, 

A I'rank, a word used for all Europeans; especially common during the Crusadet 


As in other cities the Arabians lived in separate quarters of 
their own according to their tribal affiliation. In Damascus, 
#ims, Aleppo ($ alab) and other towns these hdrahs (quarters) 
are still well marked. The doorway of each house opened from 
the street into a courtyard in the centre of which usually stood 
a large water-basin with a flowing jet emitting from time to 
time a veil-like spray. An orange or citron tree grew by the basin. 
The rooms surrounded the courtyard, which in larger houses was 
provided Vith a cloister. It is to the eternal glory of the banu- 
Umayyah that they supplied Damascus with a water system 
which was unexcelled in the contemporary Orient and still con- 
tinues to function* Yazld's name is borne today by a canal, Nahr 
YazTd, which this son of Mu'awiyah dug from the Barada,or more 
probably widened, 1 in order to perfect the irrigation of the 
Ghutah. This rich oasis outside Damascus with its luxurious 
gardens owes its very existence to the Barada. Besides the Nahr 
Yazld, the Barada sends off four other arms or channels which 
spread fertility and freshness throughout the town* 

The population throughout the empire was divided into four Soa 
social classes. The highest consisted naturally of the ruling Mos- 
lems headed by the caliphal household and the aristocracy of 
Arabian conquerors* Exactly how numerous was this class can- 
not be ascertained. Under al-Walid I the number of annuities 
apportioned to Arabian Moslems in Damascus and its district 
(jund) reached 45,000.* Under Marwan I, y im§ and its district 
registered 20,000 pensions. The number of converted Moslems 
could not have been great before the restrictions imposed by 
*Umar II. Although the capital of the caliphate may have pre- 
sented by the end of the Umayyad period the aspect of a Moslem 
town, Syria as a whole remained largely Christian until the third 
Moslem century. The small towns and villages and especially 
the mountainous regions — always the home of the lost cause — 
preserved their native features and ancient cultural patterns. In 
fact the Lebanon remained Christian in faith and Syriac in 
speech for centuries after the conquest. Only the physical con- 
flicted ended with the conquest; the religious, the racial, 

Ctmsuit hp&hn, p. 59; cf. H. Sauvairc, "Description de Damns: 'OyoOn ct- 
Tnwarikh, par Mohammad cbn Chkkct' 1 , Journal asiatique t scr. 9, vol. vii (1896), 
p. 400. 

c * Consult H. Lato mens, la Sjru/ pricit histortqut (Beirut, 1921), vol. i % pp. 


the social and above all the linguistic conflicts were just be- 

Client* Next below the Arabian Moslems came the Neo-Moslems, 
who by force or persuasion had professed Islam and were thereby 
admitted in theory, though not in practice, to the full rights of 
Islamic citizenship. Here Arabian chauvinism, pitted against 
theoretical claims, proved too strong for those claims to be real- 
ized. There is no doubt that throughout practically all the period 
of the Umayyads, holders of land, whether believers or unbe- 
lievers, were made to pay kharaj (land tax). There is no evidence 
of mass conversion to Islam in the provinces until after such 
stringent regulations as those of *Umar II and the 'Abbasid al« 
Mutawakkil (847-61). In Egypt resistance to the new religion 
was always least obstinate. The revenue of that country was re- 
duced from fourteen million dinars in the time of "Amr ibn-al-* As 
to five in the time of Mu'awiyah and later to four under the 
'Abbasid Harun al-Rashid (786-809). 1 In al- f Iraq it fell from a 
hundred million under 'Urnar ibn-al-Khattab to forty million 
in the days of f Abd-al~Malik. a One of the causes for the decline 
of state revenue was undoubtedly conversion to Islam. Under 
the early 'Abbasids, the Egyptians, Persians and Aramaeans who 
had accepted Islam began to outnumber the Moslems of Arabian 

Reduced to the position of clients (mawalt), these neophyte 
Moslems formed the lowest stratum of Moslem society, a status 
which they bitterly resented. This explains our finding them in 
many cases espousing such causes as the Shi'ite in al- r lraq or 
the Kharijite in Persia. Some of them, however, as often happens, 
proved religiously "more royal than the king", and their zeal 
for the new faith, bordering on fanaticism, made them persecute 
non-Moslems. Among the most intolerant early Moslems were 
some of these converts from Christianity and Judaism. 

Within the Moslem society these clients were naturally the first 
to devote themselves to learned studies and fine arts, for they 
represented the longer tradition of culture. As they outshone the 
Moslem Arabians in the intellectual field they began to contest 
with them the political leadership. Through their intermarriages 

* Al-Ya*qubi, Kttab al-Bulddn, ed, de Goeje (Leyden, 1892), p. 339. 

* Cf. Yn'qtibi, vol. ii, p. 277, T. W. Arnold, Thi Preaching of Islam, and e<U 
(London, 1913), p. Si. 


with the conquering stock they served to dilute the Arabian 
blood and ultimately make that element inconspicuous amidst 
the mixture of varied racial strains. 

The third class was made up of members of tolerated sects, ] 
professors of revealed religions, the so-called ahl al-dkimmak, 
i.e. the Christians, Jews and Sabians with whom the Moslems 
had made covenant. The Sabians, who were identical with the 
Mandeans, the so-called Christians of St. John who still survive 
in the marshy district at the mouth of the Euphrates, are men- 
tioned thrice in the Koran (2 : 59, 5 : 73, 22 : 17). From this it 
would appear that Muhammad regarded them as believers in 
the true God. This recognition of tolerated religions, whose de- 
votees were to be disarmed and compelled to pay tribute in re- 
turn for Moslem protection, was the chief political innovation of 
Muhammad and was largely due to the esteem in which the 
Prophet held the Bible and partly to the aristocratic connections 
of the banu-Ghassan, Bakr, Taghhb and other Christian tribes. 

In this status the dhimmis enjoyed, against the payment of 
land and capitation taxes, a wide measure of toleration. Even m 
matters of civil and criminal judicial procedure, except where a 
Moslem was involved, these people were practically under their 
own spiritual heads. Moslem law was too sacred to be applicable 
to them. Essential parts of this system were still in force as late 
as the Ottoman period and the mandatory regimes of Traq, 
Syria and Palestine. 

Originally confined to the ahl al-kitab (Scripturaries) of the 
Koran 1 who came under the rule of Islam, the tolerated status 
was later extended by the Moslems to include the fire-worship- 
ping Zoroastrians (Mqfus), the heathen of Flarran and the pagan 
Berbers. Though not devotees of a revealed religion and thus 
technically outside the pale of protection, the Persian Zoroastrians 
and the North African Berbers *vere offered by the Moslem in- 
vaders the three choices: Islam, the sword or tribute, rather than 
the first two only. Here* where the sword of Islam was not long 
enough to reach all the necks involved, technicality gave way 
to expediency. In such inaccessible regions as the Lebanon 
'the Christians remained always in the ascendant and defied 
even 'Abd-al-Malik at the height of the Umayyad caliphate. 2 
Throughout all Syria the Christians were well treated under the 
«.» Siirs. 0 : 29* 2 * 99» *<>3> 3 : 6= 65, etc, * Sec above, p. 205. 



banu-Umayyah until the reign of the pious 'Umar H.'As tye 
have already learned, Mu'awiyah's wife was a Christian,^? Were 
his poet, physician and secretary of finance. We read of only one 
conspicuous exception, that of al-Walld I, who put to death 'the 
chief of the Christian Arab tribe of the banu-Taghlib for refusing 
to profess Islam. 1 Even in Egypt Copts rose several times against 
their Moslem overlords before they finally succumbed in the days 
of the 'Abbasid al-Ma'mun (8 1 3-33)^ 

The fame of r Umar II does not rest solely on his piety or on 
his remission of taxes imposed on neophyte Moslems. *Umar was 
the first caliph and the only Umayyad to impose humiliating 
restrictions on Christian subjects — measures wrongly ascribed to 
his earlier namesake and maternal great-grandfather, r Umar L 
This so-called "covenant of 'llmar 1 ', implying 'Umar I, is re* 
corded in several forms, 3 mostly in later sources; and the pro- 
visions presuppose closer intercourse between Moslems and 
Christians than was possible in the early days of the conquest. 
The most striking regulations issued by this Umayyad caliph 
were the excluding of Christians from public offices, prohibiting 
their wearing turbans, requiring them to cut their forelocks, to 
don distinctive clothes with girdles of leather, to ride without 
saddles or only on pack saddles, to erect no places of worship 
and not to lift their voices in time of prayer. According to his 
decree if a Moslem killed a Christian his penalty was only a fine 
and no Christian's testimony against a Moslem in courts could 
be accepted. The Jews were evidently also included under some 
of these restrictions and excluded from governmental positions.* 
That many of these enactments were not long in force is indi- 
cated by the fact that Khalid ibn- f Abdullah al-Qasri, governor 
of al- f Iraq under Hisham, built a church in al-Kufah to please 
his Christian mother, 6 granted Christians and Jews the privilege 
of building places of worship and even appointed Zoroastrians 
to posts in the government. 

1 Aghant) vol x, p. 99. H. Lammens in Journal astattgue t $zr* 9, vol. iv (1894), 
PP 43S9 

* Kindi, pp. 73, 81, 96, 116, 117; Maqrfa, Khifaf (Bulaq, 1270), vol.5, p 497. 

* Ibn *Abd-al Hakarfl, pp. 151-2, ibn-*Asakir> vol. i, pp. 178*80; al-Ibshlhi, 
al'Mustattaf (Cairo, 1314), vol 1, pp 100x01. 

* Abu«Yusuf, Khar&j t pp. 152-3; ibn al-Jawzi, Strat 'Umar, p. loo; *Iqd t 
vol. u, pp. 339 40/ ibn ol-Athlr, vol. v, p. 49, A. S. Tritton, Tht Cahphs and Jhtr 
non'Mushm Subjects (Oxford, 1930), pp. 5-35. 

Ibn-KhallikSn, vol. I, p. 302 - de Sialic, vol. i, p. 485. 


'At the bottoni of society stood the slaves. 1 Islam preserved* 
the ancient Semitic institution of slavery, the legality of which 
the Old Testament admitted, but it appreciably ameliorated the 
condition of the slave. Canon law forbade the Moslem to en- 
slave his co-religionist, but promised no liberty to an alien slave 
who adopted Islam. Slaves in early Islam were recruited from 
prisoners of war, including women and children, unless ransomed, 
and by purchase or raiding. Soon the slave trade became very 
brisk and lucrative in all Moslem lands. Some slaves from East * i 
or Central Africa Were black; others from Farghanah or Chinese 
Turkestan were yellow; still others from the Near East or from 
eastern and southern Europe were white. The Spanish slaves, 
called Saqalibah?' from Spanish esdavo^ fetched about a thou- 
sand dinars each, while Turkish slaves fetched only six hundred 
apiece. According to Islamic law the offspring of a female slave 
by another slave, by any man other than her master, or by her 
master in case he does not acknowledge th6 fatherhood of the 
child, is likewise a slave; but the offspring of a male slave by a 
freewoman is free. 

An idea of the number of slaves flooding the Moslem empire 
as a result of conquest may be gained from such exaggerated 
figures, as the following: Musa ibn-Nu?ayr took 300,000 captives 
From Ifriqiyah, one-fifth of whom he forwarded to al-Walld, 3 and 
from the Gothic nobility in Spain he captured 30,000 virgins; 4 
Qutaybah's captives from Sogdiana alone numbered ioo,ooo; 5 
al-Zubayr ibn-al-'Awwam bequeathed among other chattels one 
thousand male and female slaves, 6 The famous Makkan poet of 
love, *Umar ibn-abi-Rabi f ah (f ca. 719), had many more than 
seventy slaves, 7 For an Umayyad prince to maintain a retinue of 
about a thousand slaves was nothing extraordinary. Even the 
private in the Syrian army at the battle of Siffin had from one 
to ten servants waiting on him. 8 

Between the master and the female slave concubinage, but 

not legal marriage, was permissible. The children of such a union 

1 Ar. *ahd (pL '(titd), especially if black; otherwise mamluk (pi. mamalik), 

* Same term used by the Arabs for the Slavs. Sec below, p, 525. 

* Maqqari, vol. i, p. 14S, * Ibiwd-Athir, vol. iv, p. 44S 

* voLiv, p. 454- • Mas'udi, vol iv, p. 254. 
7 Agkdni, vol. i, p. 37. 

* Mtttadi, vol. iv, p. 3S7, Consult Jurji Zaydan, TJriiA &Tamad4u* *A 
IxUim % 3rd ed. (Cairo, 192a). vol. v» pp. %z uq* 


belonged to the master and were therefore free; but the status of 
the concubine was thereby raised only to that of umm-whlad 
(mother of children), who could neither be sold by her husband- 
master nor given away and who at his death was declared free. 
In the melting-pot process which resulted in the amalgamation 
of Arabians and foreigners, the slave trade undoubtedly played 
an extremely important role. 

The liberation of slaves was always looked upon as a good 
work (gutda/i) entitling the master to a special reward in the 
next world* When liberated the slave enjoyed the status of a client 
to his former master, now his patron. In case the patron died 
without heirs the client inherited his estate. 
Ai- The quiet life of aUMadlnah, rendered venerable by its early 

Mwjinah Moslem association, attracted thither would-be scholars devoted 
MaUah to the study of the mementos of its sacred past and to tbe 
collecting of legal and ritual enactments. The city containing the 
bunal-place of the Prophet thus became the first centre oflslamic 
tradition, which under such men as Anas ibn -Malik (f between 
709 and 711) and f Abdullah ibn-'Umar ibn-al-Khattab 1 (t (593) 
developed into a science of the first order. 

The school of Makkah owes its reputation to 'Abdullah ibn- 
al- r Abbas, surnamed abu-al-'Abbas (f ca. 688), a cousin of the 
Prophet and ancestor of the 'Abbasid caliphs, a man who was 
so universally admired for his knowledge of profane and sacred 
tradition and jurisprudence and for his skill in commenting on 
the Koran that he won the enviable title of hibr al-ummah (the 
sage of the community). Modern criticism, however, has exposed 
him as a fabricator of several i>adlths. 

Under the Umayyads the two cities of al-rjijaz entirely changed 
their aspect. To al-Madlnah, the forsaken capital of Arabia, now 
retired many of those anxious to keep aloof from the turmoil 
of political activity or desirous of enjoying undisturbed the great 
fortunes which the wars of conquest had gained for them. Fol- 
lowing al-PJasan and al-Husayn, a large number of nouveatix 
riches flocked there. Inside the city arose palaces and outside u 
villas, all swarming with servants and slaves and providing their 
occupants with every variety of luxury. 2 Makkah shared with its 

1 Eldest son of the second caliph. As a traditionist he is considered more reliable 
than ibn«Malii, whose collection has been preserved in the Musticd of AJimad ibn- 

* Mas'Gdi, vol. iv, pp. 254-5. 

sister city this attractiveness for lovers of pleasure. As life in the 
two cities became more luxurious its excesses became more 
notorious. 1 Pilgrims from all over the Moslem world brought 
every year vast fresh supplies of money* What a contrast to the 
primitive times when the Caliph 'Umar's agent arrived from al- 
Bahrayn claiming to be the bearer of tribute amounting to 
500,000 dirhams! The caliph questioned the possibility of such a 
figure, and when doubly assured that it was "a hundred thou- 
sand five times", he summoned the people and proclaimed, "O ye 
men, we have just received an enormous sum. If ye wish we 
shall give each his share by measure, otherwise by count."* 

With this increased flow of wealth the two Holy Cities became 
less holy. They developed into a centre of worldly pleasure and 
gaiety and a home of secular Arab music and song. In Makkah 
was established a kind of clubhouse patronized by guests who, 
we are told, had facilities for hanging their outer garments on 
pegs — apparently an innovation for al-yijaz — before indulging 
in chess, backgammon, dice or reading. 8 To al-Madlnah Persian, 
and Byzantine slave songstresses (qiydn) flocked in increasing 
numbers. Amorous poetry kept pace with other new develop- 
ments. Houses of ill repute (buyiit al-qiyan) flourished in al- 
Madmah and were patronized by no less a poet than al-Farazdaq 
of national fame, 4 As these female slaves sang and played soft 
melodies far the entertainment of their wealthy masters and 
guests^ the latter, attired in colourful robes, reclined on square 
mattresses or cushions while they inhaled the perfume of burning 
spices and sipped from silver goblets the ruddy wines of Syria. 

Al-Madlnah boasted under the early Marwanids the proud 
and beautiful Sayyidah 5 Sukaynah (f 73$), daughter of the mar- 
tyred al-£lusayn and granddaughter of * Ali, one of the most re- 
markable women of the age. 

Sukaynah's rank and learning combined with her fondness for 
song and poetry and her charm, good taste and quick-wittedness 
to make her the arbiter of fashion, beauty and literature in the 
region of the sacred cities. Sukaynah was noted for her jests 
and hoaxes « The crude humour appreciated even in the high 
society of the time is illustrated by the occasion when she 

* Xf&*nt\\ol xxi, p. 197, s Ibn-Sa'd, vol. hi, pt x, p. 216. 

* Sri 'S*. iv > 52; rf - p- 339> * Md. vol xxi, p. 197. 

Lad} ,ataUeori^ntaiytcscmdfor thcdcsccndanksof*AHandF5timali. 
vol. »v, pp. 164-5; vol. svii, pp. 97, 101-2. 



made an old Persian sheikh sit on a basket of eggs and cluck 
like a hen, to the merriment of her incoming guests. On another 
she sent word to the chief of police that a Syrian had broken 
into her apartment; w hen the chief himself and his aide arrived 
in haste they found her maid holding a flea. 1 Then as now Syria 
was evidently noted for its fleas. The brilliant assemblies of 
poets and jurists held in her residence, a sort of salon, never 
failed to be enlivened by her sallies of repartee. Special pride 
she took in her ancestry, in her daughter, whom she liked to 
bedeck with jewels, and in her own hair, which she had her own 
peculiar way of dressing. This coiffure a la Sukaynah (Jttrrah 
Sukaymyafi)* became popular among men and was at a later 
date strictly prohibited by the puritan Caliph 'Umar II, 8 one 
of w hose brothers had married Sukaynah without consummating 
the union. As for the successive husbands whom the charms of 
this lady captivated for a longer or shorter period, they could 
hardly be counted on the fingers of two hands.* In more than one 
instance she made complete freedom of action a condition pre- 
cedent to marriage. 

Sukaynah had a rival in al-f a*if, the famous summer resort of 
Makkah and al-Madlnah, whose patricians witnessed a number 
of striking scenes and episodes centring on young 'A'ishah 
bint-Talhah. 'A'ishah's father was a distinguished Companion 
of the Prophet; her mother was a daughter of abu-Bakr and 
sister of 'A'ishah, Muhammad's favourite wife. This daughter 
of Talhah combined with noble descent a rare beauty and a 
proud and lofty spirit — the three qualities most highly prized in 
a woman by the Arabs. No favour she requested could very 
well be refused. Her appearance in public was even more im- 
pressive than that of Sukaynah. 5 Once when she was on a 
pilgrimage to Makkah she asked the master of ceremonies, who 
was also the governor of the town, to defer the public religious 
service until she had completed the last of the seven prescribed 
processions around the Ka'bah. This the gallant governor of 
course did, which resulted in his dismissal from office by the 
Caliph 'Abd-al-Malik 6 c A*ishah's record of marriages included 

1 Agh&nt % tel. xiv, p 1 66, vol xvii, p 94 1 Ibn-Khalhkan, vol. i, p. 377, 

8 AghSnt, vol. xiv, p. 165 

* Compare their lists inibn Sa*<3, vol vui,p 349, lbn Qutaybah,i*/tf pp. ioi, 
log-lQ, 1 T3, 122, 289 90, ibn Khalhkan, vol. 1, p 377, Aghcnu vol. xiv, pp. 168-72. 

* Aghant* \ol x, p. 60. f Ibid, vol. 111, p. 103. 


only thrceAWhen her second husband, MuVab ibn-al-Zubayr, 
who had also married Sukaynah and is said to have given each 
a million dirhams as dowry, 5 took her to task for never veiling 
her face her characteristic reply was, "Since God, may He remain 
blessed and exalted, hath put upon me the stamp of beauty, it 
is my wish that the pubHc should view that beauty and thereby 
recognize His grace unto them. Under no conditions, therefore, 
wilt I veil myself." 3 

1 Ibn-Sa'd, vol. viii, p, 342. * Aghoni y vol. iii, p. 122* 

* find vol. x, p. 54. 


The invaders from the desert brought with them no tradition 
of learning, no heritage of culture, to the lands they conquered. 
In Syria, in Egypt, in al-'Iraq, in Persia, they sat as pupils at 
the feet of the peoples they subdued. And what acquisitive pupils 
they proved to be! 

The closeness of the Umayyad period to the Jahillyah age, 
its many wars, civil and foreign, and the unsettled social and 
economic conditions of the Moslem world — all these militated 
against the possibility of intellectual development in that early 
epoch. But the seed was then sown and the tree of knowledge 
which came into full bloom under the early 'Abbasids in Bagh- 
dad certainly had its roots in this preceding period of Greek, 
Syrian and Persian culture. The Umayyad age, therefore, was in 
general one of incubation. 

As Persians, Syrians, Copts, Berbers and others flocked within 
the fold of Islam and intermarried with the Arabians the original 
high wall raised earlier between Arabians and non-Arabians 
tumbled down. The nationality of the Moslem receded into the 
background. No matter what his nationality may originally have 
been, the follower of Muhammad now passed for an Arab. An 
Arab henceforth became one who professed Islam and spoke 
and wrote the Arabic tongue, regardless of his racial affiliation. 
This is one of the most significant facts in the history of Islamic 
civilization. When we therefore speak of "Arab medicine" or 
"Arab philosophy" or "Arab mathematics" we do not mean the 
medical science, philosophy or mathematics that are necessarily 
the product of the Arabian mind or developed by people living 
in the Arabian peninsula, but that body of knowledge enshrined 
in books written in the Arabic language by men who flourished 
chiefly during the caliphate and were themselves Persians, 
Syrians, Egyptians or Arabians, Christian, Jewish or Moslem, 



and who may have drawn some of their material from Greek, 
Aramaean, Indo-Persian or other sources* 

As the two sister cities of al-fclijaz, Makkah and al-Madmah, ai- 
became under the Umayyads the home of music and song, love ™ 
and poetry, so did the twin cities of al- e lraq, ai-Basrah 1 and 
al-Kufah, develop during this period into centres of the most 
animated intellectual activity in the Moslem world* 

These two capitals of al-*Iraq, as we have learned before, were An 
originally military camps built by order of the Caliph f Umar in 
the Moslem year 17 (638).* Al-Kufah, the former capital of 'Ali, 
arose not far from the ruins of ancient Babylon and in a sense 
fell heir to its neighbour, al-IJ Irah, the Lakhmid capital. Through 
favoured location, commerce and immigration the sister towns 
soon grew into wealthy and populous cities of over a hundred 
thousand inhabitants. Al-Basrah, from which Khurasan was 
governed under the Umayyads, is said to have reached as 
early as the year 30 (670) a total population of 300,000 and to 
have had at a later date 120,000 (!) canals. 3 Here on the border- 
land of Persia the scientific study of the Arabic language and 
grammar was begun and carried on mainly for foreign con- 
verts and partly by them. The first impulse cam<i from the 
desire to supply the linguistic needs of Neo-Moslems who 
wanted to study the Koran, hold government positions and 
converse with the conquerors. In addition, the ever-widening 
gap between the classical language of the Koran and the 
. everyday vernacular corrupted by Syriac, Persian and other 
tongues and dialects was partly responsible for evoking such 
linguistic interest. 

<It was by no mere chance, therefore, that the legend^iry founder 
of Arabic grammar, abu-al-Aswad al-Du ali (f 688), should have 
flourished in al-Basrah. According to the famous biographer 
tbn-Khaliikan* it was "*Ali who laid down for aKDu'ali this 
principle: The parts of speech are three- — noun, verb and particle, 
and told him to found a complete treatise thereon 1 '. This he 
successfully did. Arabic grammar, however, shows slow and long 

, 1 Eng.Bassora, Present-day al-Basrah lies six miles to the north-cast of the ancient 
City. * 

* Al-KSfah may h*ve been built one or two years after al-Basrah; Yaqut. vol iv. 

* I^akhn, p So; ibn^Iawqal, p. 159* 

4 Vol. i, ppr420-3o = d£ Slane, vol. i t p. 663. 


development and bears striking marks of the influence of Greek 
logic. Al-Du'ali was followed by al-Khalll ibn-Alimad, another 
Basrite scholar, who died about 786. To al-Khalll, who was the 
first to compile an Arabic dictionary, the Kitab al-Ayn, bio- 
graphers attribute the discovery of Arabic prosody and its rules, 
which still hold sway today. His pupil the Persian Slbawayh (f ca. 
793) composed the first systematic textbook on Arabic grammar, 
known by the honorific title al-Kitab (the book), which has 
ever since been the basis of all native studies of the subject. 
Religious The study of the Koran and the necessity of expounding it 
2d aSn £ ave r * se to tne tw * n sciences of philology and lexicography as 
law well as to that most characteristically Moslem literary activity 
— the science of tradition Qiadtth, literally "narrative"). In its 
technical sense a tradition is an act or saying attributed to the 
Prophet or to one of his Companions. The Koran and tradition 
provided the foundation upon which theology and fiqh (law), 
the obverse and reverse of sacred law, were raised. Law in Islam 
is more intimately related to religion than to jurisprudence as 
modern lawyers understand it. Roman law, directly or through 
the Talmud and other media, did undoubtedly affect Umayyad 
legislation, but to what extent has not been fully ascertained. In 
fact, of this period, from which hardly any literature has come 
down to us, we know only a few of the traditionibts and jurists, 
the most renowned of whom were al- Hasan al-Basri and ibn- 
Shihab al-Zuhri (f 742). The latter, who traced his descent to 
the Prophet's tribe, was always so deeply absorbed in his studies 
to the neglect of all worldly concerns that his wife once remarked, 
"By Allah, tliese books of yours are worse to me than three rival 
wives possibly could be!" 1 Al-Basri was highly esteemed as a trans- 
mitter of tradition, since he was believed to have known personally 
seventy of those who took part in the battle of Badr. Most of the 
religious movements within Islam trace their origin back to 
al-Basri. The Sufis felt throughout the ages the lasting influence 
of his ascetic piety, the orthodox Sunnis 2 never tire of quoting his 
devout sayings and even the Mu'tazilitcs reckon him as one of 
themselves. No wonder the populace of al-Basrah turned out in 
a body to follow his funeral on Friday the tenth of October 728, 
and none was left to attend or conduct the afternoon prayer in 

* Ibn-Khallikan, vol. 11, p. 223, abu-al-Fida*, vol. i, pp. 215-16. 
• See below, p. 393, n, 2. 


the mosque that day — "an unprecedented happening in the 
history of Islam' 1 . 1 

The contributions of the fickle and unorthodox Kufans, many 
of whom were Shf ites or c AKds, to Arabic philology and Moslem 
learning were almost, but not quite, as brilliant as those of their 
neighbours the Ba^rites. Rivalry between the scholars of the two 
camps developed two well-recognized schools of Arabic gram- 
mar and literature. Among the celebrated Companions, regarded 
as authorities on Moslem tradition, who settled in al-Kufah 
during the caliphates of 'Umar and 'Uthman was the red- 
haired) thin*legged f AbduHahibn-Mas*ud (ca. 653), who is said 
to have been responsible for eight hundred and forty-eight 
traditions. 2 It was a peculiar feature of ibn-Mas*ud, when giving 
information about the Prophet, to tremble, exude sweat from 
his forehead and express himself with deliberate and hesitant 
caution, lest he transmit something inexact. 3 Equally dis- 
tinguished among the Kufan traditionists was t Amir ibn- 
Sharahll al-Sha f bi (f ta. 728), one of the many South Arabians 
who gained eminence in the early days of Islam, who is said to 
have heard traditions from some hundred and fifty Companions * 
which he related from memory without putting down a single 
line in black and white. Withal, the general judgment of modern 
critics is quite favourable in regard to his trustworthiness. The 
most eminent of al-Sha'bi's pupils was the great abu-Hanlfah. 
We have it on the authority of al-Sha'bi that he himself was sent 
by the Caliph 'Abd-al-Malik on an important mission to the 
Byzantine emperor in Constantinople. 

It was under the *Abbasids, as we shall see later, that these 
twin cities of al-*Iraq reached their highest level of intellectual 
endeavour and achievement. In their later development the 
'Iraq schools of tradition and jurisprudence were not swayed hy 
the old conservative traditions as were the schools of al-^Iijaz. 
^Arabic historiography, which also began at this time, started H^to 
in tlxe form of -tradition Qiaditlt). It was therefore one of the*™" 
earliest disciplines cultivated by the Arab Moslems. The desire 
of the early caliphs to scan the proceedings of kings and rulers 

r 1 Um-KhaUikan, vol. i t p. 228. 

* 3WjA&-ii-Axrt# 9 «L F. WOstenfdd (Gdttingen, 1843-7), p. 370. 

v •OJbbSAM, vol. iii, i, pp. txo.ii. 

^?: SaiR,fi ? 5 » cl-dnsabt *a. Mturgoliouth (Leydea, 191s), fol. 334 recto; cf, ibn* 
KMIik&j,. vol, *, p. 436, 


before their time, the interest of the believers in collecting the 
old stories about the Prophet and his Companions — which stories 
became the bases of later books on biography (strah) and con* 
quests (maghast) — the necessity of ascertaining the genealogical 
relationship of each Moslem Arabian in order to determine the 
amount of stipend he received from the public treasury, the 
elucidation of passages in Arabic poetry and the identification 
of persons and places cited in religious works, the anxiety 
of the subject peoples to record the past achievements of their 
races as a counterpoise to Arab chauvinism — all these provided 
the stimulus for historical research. Among the early distin- 
guished story-tellers was the semi-legendary South Arabian 'Abld 
fUbayd) ibn-Sharyah, who on the invitation of Mu'awiyah went 
to Damascus to inform the caliph about "the early kings of the 
Arabians and their races' 1 , 1 'Abld composed for his royal patron 
a number of works on his specialty, one of which, the Kitab 
aUMuluk wa-Akhbar al-Mdtfin (the book of kings and the 
history of the ancients), was in wide circulation at the time of 
the historian al-Mas'udi 2 (f 956). Another of those versed in the 
"science of origins' ' i^ilm al-atvail) was Wahb ibn-Munabbih 
(fin San'a\ ca. 728), a Yamanite Jew of Persian origin who prob- 
ably professed Islam and one of whose works has recently been 
published. 3 Wahb, whose trustworthiness is open to grave ques- 
tion, became one of the chief sources of information, or rather 
misinformation, about pre-lslamic South Arabia and foreign 
lands. 4 Still another was Ka'b al-Ahbar (Ka'b of the rabbis, 
f 652 or 654 in yims), also a Yamanite Jew, who accepted Islam 
under one of the first two caliphs and acted as teacher and coun- 
sellor to the court of Mu'awiyah when the latter was still governor 
of Syria. 6 Thus did Ka*b become the earliest authority for the 
Jewish-Moslem traditions. Through Ka*b> ibn-Munabbih and 
other Jewish converts a number of talmudic stories ultimately 
found their way into Moslem tradition and were incorporated 
with Arabic historical lore. 

1 Al-Nadlm, al-Fihrist, ed. G. FlOgcl (Leipzig, 1872), p. 89, 1, 26; cf» ibn-Khal* 
likfin, vol. ii, p. 365. 

* Vol iv, p. 89. 

* Al-Tijan Aluluk ffimyar (Haydarilbad, 1347), v,ith a supplement (pp. 311- 
489) entitled "AkhbSr 'Abid", by 'Abld. 

4 Ibn-Khalhkun, \'ol. ui, pp. 106-7; Tabari, vol. in, pp. 2493-4; Nawawi, p. 619. 

* Consult Nauawi, p. 523; ibn-Sa'd, vol. vii, pt. 2, p. 156; ibn-Qutaybab, Mt?arif % 
p. 219. 


In the Umayyad period we can also detect the rudiments of 
many of those religio-phtlosophical movements which were later 
to shake Islam to its very foundation. In the first half of the 
eighth century there flourished in ai-Basrah a certain Wasil ibn- 
'Ata* (f 748), the founder of the famous school of rationafism 
termed Mu'tazilah. The Mu*tazilites (seceders, schismatics) 
were so called because of their major doctrine that he who com- 
mits a mortal sin (kabtrah) secedes from the ranks of the believers 
but does not become an unbeliever; he occupies a medial position 
between the two* 1 Wa§il was a pupil of al-ftasan al-Basri, who 
inclined for a time to the doctrine of free will, which doctrine 
became another cardinal point in Mu f tazilite belief. This doctrine 
of free will was at the time held by a group called Qadarites 
(from qadar^ power) as opposed to the Jabrites (from ja6r** 
compulsion). 2 The Qadarites represent a reaction against the 
harsh predestinarianism of Islam, a corollary of God's almighti- 
ness so strongly emphasized in the Koran, 3 and betray Christian 
Greek influence* The Qadarites were the earliest school of 
philosophy in Islam, and how widely spread their ideas were may 
be inferred from the fact that two of the Umayyad caliphs, 
Mu'awiyah II and YazTd III, were Qadarites 4 

To the cardinal doctrine of free will the Mu'tazilites added 
another: the denial of the coexistence with God of the divine 
attributes, such as power, wisdom and life, on the ground that 
such conceptions would destroy the unity of God* Hence the 
Mu f tazilites , favourite appellation for themselves: "the partisans 
of justice and unity". This rationalistic movement attained 
significant importance under the *Abbasids, especially al- 
MaVnun (813-33), as we shall see later* Intellectually, Baghdad 
began where al-Basrah and al-Kufah ended. 

One of the principal agents through whom Christian lore and St , 
Greek thought at this time found their way into Islam was St p 3r 
John of Damascus (Joannes Damascenus), surnamed Chrysor- 
rhoas (golden-tongued), as his earlier Antiochene namesake was 
surnamed Chrysostom. Although he wrote in Greek, John was 

1 Mas'udj, vol. vi, p, 22, vn, p. 534. Cf. Shahrastani, p 33, al-BaghdSdi, Uful 
c/"Z>M (Istanbul, 1928), vol \ r p 335^o t Mukktatcrcd-FiLrqhayn(d-Firaq 1 f&.TA\X& 
(Cairo, 1924), p 9S, al Nawbakhti, Firaq at ShVak, cd« H, Ritter (Istanbul, 1931), 
V 5* 

Cf. aMji, KxtZb a! Afatvcpf, cd Th Soerensen (Leipzig, 1848), pp 334, 362. 

* £ QrB A*? 5 * 26 * 15 4 "> 41 * 26 ' 43 - JO, S4 49, jcf. ibn Hazm,voLm, p. 31. 

* Ibxwa* Ibn,p 190, Ya'qubi, vol. 11, p 402. 


not a Greek but a Syrian who spoke Aramaic at home and knew, 
in addition to both of these languages, Arabic. His grandfather 
Mansur ibn-Sarjun was the financial administrator of Damascus 
at the time of its % Arab conquest and connived with its bishop 
in surrendering the town. He kept his position under the Mos- 
lems and John's father succeeded to the office. As a young man 
John attended drinking bouts of al-Akhtal and Mu awiyah's son 
YazTd and succeeded his father in that most important office in 
the Arab government. In his early thirties he gave it all up 
in favour of a life of asceticism and devotion in the monastery 
of St. Saba near Jerusalem. Here he died about 748. Among 
St. John's works is a dialogue with a "Saracen" on the 
divinity of Christ and the freedom of human will which is 
intended to be an apology for Christianity, a manual for the 
guidance of Christians in their arguments with the Moslems. 
John himself probably held many such debates in the presence of 
the caliph. His influence is not hard to detect in the formation 
of the Qadarite school. To St. John tradition ascribes the story 
of the ascetic Barlaam and the Hindu prince Josaphat, perhaps 
the most famous religious romance of the Middle Ages. Modern 
critics recognize the story as a Christian version of an episode 
in the life of the Buddha, who under the name Josaphat (or 
Ioasaph) was, strange as it may seem, canonized by both the 
Latin and the Greek Churches. Thus did the Buddha twice 
become a Christian saint. The medieval story of Barlaam and 
Josaphat goes back through Latin, Greek and Georgian into 
Arabic, itself evidently a translation from Pahlawi done after 
St. John's days. 1 Mention is made in the Fihrist* of a Kitab ah 
Budd (the book of Buddha) and of a Kttdb Buddsaf. John 
Damascene is considered the greatest and last theologian of the 
Oriental Greek Church. In ecclesiastical literature the hymnshe 
composed (some of which are still used in Protestant hymnals) 
mark the highest attainment of beauty by Christian Church 
poets. As hymnologist, theologian, orator, polemic writer, father 
of Byzantine music and codifier of Byzantine art he stands out as 
an ornament to the body of the Church under the caliphate. 
Khfirijues The Qadarite was the earliest philosophical school of thought 
in Islam, but the Kharijites formed the earliest religio-political 

1 Paulus Pettrus in Annaltcta Bollandtana, vol xlix (Brussels, 1931), pp 
276-312 1 P. 305, 


sect. These deadly opponents of *Aii, once his supporters, re- 
peatedly arose in armed opposition to the prerogative conferred 
on the Quraysh that the caliph should be one of their number. 1 
In endeavouring: to maintain the primitive, democratic prin- 
ciples of Islam the puritanical Kharijites caused rivers of blood 
to flow in the first three Moslem centuries. In course of time 
they forbade the cult of saints with the attendant local pil- 
grimages and prohibited Sufi fraternities. Today they survive in 
the form of a subdivision called Ibadite (commonly Abadite), after 
ibn-Ibad 2 (second half of first Moslem century), the most tolerant 
of the Kharijite founders of sub-sects, and are scattered in Algeria, 
Tripolitania and 'Uman, whence they later crossed to Zanzibar. 

Another sect, but of minor importance, which arose in the 
Umayyad age was the Murji'ite, whose fundamental article of 
faith consisted in the suspension (trjet) of judgment against 
believers who commit sins and in not declaring them infidels. 3 
More specifically, the Murji'ites refused to see in the suppression 
of religious law by the Umayyad caliphs a justifiable cause for 
denying that house the homage due them as the de facto political 
leaders of Islam, To the followers of this doctrine the fact that 
the Umayyads were nominally Moslems sufficed. 'Uthman and 
*Ali as well as Mu'awiyah were all servants of God, and by God 
alone must they be judged. In general, Murji'ite influence was 
on the side of tolerance. The most illustrious representative of 
the moderate wing of this school was the great divine abu- 
rjanlfah (f 767), who founded the first of the four orthodox 
schools of jurisprudence in Islam. 

The Shi'ah, one of the two hostile camps into which early 
Islam split on the issue of the caliphate, took definite form during 
the Umayyad period. The imamship then became, and has since 
continued to be, the differentiating element between Sunnites 
(orthodox) and Shfites. The persistence with which the Shi f ah 
clings to its basic belief in e Ali and 'All's sons as the true imams, 
not unlike the persistence of the Roman Catholic Church in the 
dogma of its relation to Peter and his successors, has ever re- 
mained its distinguishing feature. The founder of Islam made a 
revelation, the Koran, the intermediary between God and man; 

^ 1 Ibn-al-Jawzi, Naqd al*Ilm t\)*al*Ulam& (Cairo, r$4o), p- *02. 
% Shahrastatu, p 100, Baghdadi, ed. Hitti, pp. 87-8; Iji, p. 356. 
* Cf. Baghdadi, */ tit. pp. 122-3; ibn-tfazm, vol. ii, p. Sq. 


the Shi ah made the intermediary a person, the imam. x To "I 
believe in Allah the one God" and "I believe in the revelation of 
the Koran, which is uncreated from eternity* 1 , the Shi'ites now 
added a new article of faith: "I believe that the imam especially 
chosen by Allah as the beaier of a part of the divine being is the 
leader to salvation". 

The institution of the imamate was a product of theocratic 
opposition to the profane conception of might. According to 
its theory, as opposed to the Sunnite view, 2 the imam is the sole 
legitimate head of the Moslem community, divinely designated 
for the supreme office. He is a lineal descendant of Muhammad 
through Fatimah and *AIi. He is a spiritual and religious leader 
as well as a secular one, endowed with a mysterious power trans- 
mitted to him from his predecessor. 3 As such he stands far 
superior to any other human being and enjoys impeccability 
('tsma/i).* Extremists among the Shl'ah went so far as to consider 
the imam, on account of this divine and luminous essence, the in- 
carnation of God himself. 6 To them *AH and his descendent 
imams constitute a continuous divine revelation in human form. 
A later ultra-Shfite sect even held that Gabriel mistook Muham- 
mad for 'Ali, 6 who was originally intended for the reception of 
the revelation. In all this the Shl*ite stands in opposition to the 
Sunnite creed. 

How much ShI'ah in its birth and evolution owed to Persian 
notions and how much to Judaeo-Christian ideas is hard to 
ascertain. The Mahdi hypothesis which developed later and 
involved the expectation of a saviour-leader who will usher in a 
new era of liberty and prosperity was undoubtedly a reflex of 
Messianic and allied ideas. The enigmatic 'Abdullah ibn-Saba*, 
who was converted to Islam during the caliphate of 'Uthman 
and embarrassed 'Ali with his excessive veneration, thus be- 

1 From an Arabic stem meaning to precede, to lead The term, which occurs in 
the Koran (2 1 18, 15 : 79, 25:74, 36. 1 1) in no technical sense, is ordinarily applied 
to the person v,ho in the canonical services indicates the ritual movements Origin* 
ally the Prophet, and after him the cihphs or their delegates, filled this office. 
Ibn-Khaldun, Muqaddamah^ pp 159 60 

* For this mcw consult Iji, pp 296 $tg. 

* Shahrastani, pp 10S 9, Mas'udi, \ol i, p. 70. 

* Immunity from error and sin is ascribed in varying degrees by Sunnitcs to the 
prophet* only, especial!) to Muhammad. Ibn-Hazm, \ol n, pp. 2*25; I. Goldziher 
tn Der Islam, \ol m (1912), pp 23S 45; Iji, pp 2 18 seg. 

s See below, pp 440 se$. 

* Baghdadi, ed. Hitti, p 157; ibn-al-Jawzi, Naqd, pp. 103-4 


coming the founder of extreme Shfisrn, 1 was a Yamanite Jew. 
Gnosticism also undoubtedly contributed its share to the develop- 
ment of the imamate conception. Of all the lands of Islam, al- 
'Iraq proved the most fertile soil for the germination of 'Alid 
doctrines, and to the present day Persia with its fifteen millions 
is the bulwark of the Shi* ah. 3 Within the Shfite community 
itself an almost unlimited number of minor sects arose. Different 
members of "the house of the Prophet" (a/il al-dayt, i.e. *Ali and 
his descendants) became the natural centre of attraction for all 
sorts of non-conformists and malcontents, economic, social, 
political and religious. Many of the heterodoxies which arose in 
the first century of Islam and were in themselves a veiled protest 
against the victorious religion of the Arabians, gradually gravi- 
tated to the bosom of Shi* ah as the representative of opposition 
to the established order. The Isma'flites, the Qarmatians, the 
Druzes, the Nusayris and the like, with whom we shall deal later, 
were all offshoots from the Shfite sect. 

Public speaking in its several forms was cultivated during 
the Umayyad epoch as never before and attained a height un- 
surpassed in later times. The kkattb used it as an instrument of 
religion in his Friday noon sermons, the general resorted to it as 
a means of arousing military enthusiasm among his troops and 
the provincial governor depended upon it for instilling patriotic 
feeling in his subjects. In an age with no special facilities for 
propaganda, oratory provided an excellent channel for spreading 
ideas and kindling emotions. The highly ethical orations of 'Ali, 
with their rhymes and wise sayings, the sermonettes of the 
ascetic al-rj asan al-Basri (f 728) delivered in the presence of the 
Caliph 'Umar ibn-'Abd-al-'Aziz and preserved by the latter's 
biographer, 3 the military and patriotic speeches of Ziyad ibn- 
Ablh and the fiery al~y ajjaj — all these are among the most valu- 
able literary treasures handed down to us from that early age. 4 

1 1ft p. 343- 

* In all there arc today some 50,000,000 ShT*itcs, of whom about eighteen millions 
live in Iran, seven in India, three in aVIraq, four in al-Yaman t where they are 
known by the name of Zaydis, 350,000 in Lebanon and Syria, where they go by 
tl,« name of Matawilah (i.e. partisans [of *Ali]). Ultra-Shf ite sects, including the 
lsma*iUtcs, Druzes, Nusayris, Yasldis and *Alt-Ilahis, swell the total to approximately 
^ 60,000,000, ftbout 14 per cent of the whole Moslem body. Cf. above, p. 3; below, 

. „ ^*-Jbn-al*Jaw2a, $$r&h t pp. m-6, 

" * Consult ibn*Qutaybah, *Vyun el-AkhbSr % vol. ii t pp. 231 -ja; al Jafci?! aUBay&n* 
t * vol i (Cairo, 1926), pp, 177 seg. t vol »\ pp. 47 Vgd, voL S, pp, 172 se$. 


Corre- Political correspondence under the orthodox caliphs was so 
ipondeac* ^Hef and to the point that we hardly have an official note more 
than a few lines in length. 1 To 'Abd-al-JJamid al-Katib (i.e. 
the scribe, f 750),- secretary of the last Umayyad caliphs, is 
ascribed by ibn-Khalhkan 2 the introduction of the flowery, 
long-drawn-out style with its conventional, polite phraseology 
betraying Persian influence. This affected style became a model 
for future generations of writers. A favourite Arabic saying had 
it that "the art of epistolary composition [zttsha] began with 
f Abd-al-rJamTd and ended with ibn-aI-*Amid , \ 8 Persian literary 
influence can also be detected in the many wise sayings and 
proverbs attributed to ^Ali, to his lieutenant al-Ahnaf (the bandy- 
legged) 4 ibn-Qays (f after 687) and even to Aktham ibn-Sayfi 
of pre-Islamic reputation, one of whose titles was 11 the sage 
[hakim] of the Arabians". 5 
Poetry The greatest intellectual measure of progress achieved under 
the Uma} r yads, however, was undoubtedly in the field of poetical 
composition. That the birth of Islam was not favourable to the 
chief of the Muses is evinced by the fact that the glorious periodof 
conquest and expansion inspired no poet in a "nation of poets". 
With the accession of the worldly Umayyads the old connections 
with the goddesses of wine, song and poetry were re-established. 
For the first time the poet of love makes his full appearance in 
Arabic. While many pre- Islamic bards did preface their long 
pieces (qafidahs) with a few verses of erotic character, yet none 
of them could be said to have specialized in love poetry (g/tasal). 
From this amatory prelude {nasib) of the early qasidaks Arabic 
lyric poetry arose under the influence of Persian singers and after 
their example. 

The peninsular school has 'Umar ibn-abi-Rabf ah 6 (f ea. 719) 
as its chief exponent. This prince of erotic poetry, "the Ovid of 
Arabia", was an impious Qurayshite of independent means, 7 
who made it his business to make love to the beautiful damsels 

1 For specimens consult Qalqashandi, §ubh t vol. vi, pp. 388-91. 

* Vol i,p 550J cf Mas'Qdi,vol vi,p 81. 

4 A vizir of Rukn al-DawIah the Buwavhid. 

* Jahiz, Boy an, vol i, p. 58 See ibn Qutaybah, Ma'arzf, p. 216; Takari, 
PP 43S 9 

* Ibn-Quta>bah, Afa'&tf, p 153, cf. Agham t vol x\, p 73, I 28. See Jafcif, 
gcxert, vol », p 63 * His Dizian, ed Paul Sclmarz, 2 \ols (Leipzig, 1901-9) 

Agham ) vol 1, p. 32. On his life and ^orks. see jibra'il Jabbur, *Vmar tbti-abt- 
Rabiah> 2 vols (Beirut, 1935-9). 


pilgrimaging in Makkah and al-Madlnah as well as to sucli 
charming residents as the famous Sukaynah.* In language of 
intense passion and exquisite felicity he immortalized his feeling 
towards the fair sex* The freshness and chivalry of his verse 
stand in marked contrast to the primitive passion of Imru'-al- 
Qays on the one hand and to the stereotyped sentiment of a 
later age on the other. 3 

If 'Umar represented free love in poetry, his contemporary 
Jamil (f 701) of the banu- f Udhrah, a Christian tribe of Yaman- 
ite origin settled in aHJijaz, stood for pure and innocent love 
of the platonic type, Jamil's verses, all addressed to his sweet- 
heart Buthaynah, who belonged to the same tribe/ breathe a 
spirit of tenderness unparalleled in that age. Because of their 
esthetic value and simple unaffected language they have since 
been set to music by many Arabic singers. Like Jamil al-*Udhri, 
the semi-mythical Majnun Layla,* whose original name is said 
to have been Qays ibn-al-Mulawwah, 5 represents the lyric type 
of poetical composition. Qays, according to legend, became in- 
fatuated to the point of madness (whence his surname ntajnuti) 
with a woman of the same tribe named Layla, who reciprocated 
his love but was obliged to marry another to satisfy her father. 
Crazed with despair, Qays passes the rest of his life wandering 
half-naked among the hills and valleys of his native Najd singing 
the beauty of his beloved and yearning for a sight of her. Only 
when her name was mentioned would he return to his normal 
self. 6 Thus did Majnun Layla become the hero of numberless 
Arabic, Persian and Turkish romances extolling the power of 
undying love. Undoubtedly many of the poems attached to the 
names of Jamil and Majnun were not actually composed by 
them but were originally ballads and folk-songs. 

Besides love poetry, political poetry made its appearance under 
Umayyad auspices. The first occasion was the request made of 
Misldn al-Darimi to compose and sing publicly verses com- 
memorating the nomination of Yazld to the caliphate. 7 To this 

1 Ita'Quttybah, Skfr, p. 349. 

* Sec W, G. Palgravc, Essays on Eastern Questions (London, 187a), p. 279. 

* Consult ibn-Qutaybah, Shfr % pp. 260-6$, Aghani^ voL vii\ pp. 77-H0. 
1 " * AghSm, vol. i, p. 169, quoted by ibn-Khalkkan, vol. i, p. 148. 

* At-Kutubi, Fawat al-Wafaytt (Bulaq, 1283), vol. ii, p. l?2, makes the date of 
his death about A*H . 80 ~ 699. 

« Ibn*Qutaybab ( SAi*r t pp. 358*63. 
' * Jf&&ti 9 vol. xviu,pp, 71-2; cf. ibn-Qutaybah, Skfr, p. 347. 



period also belongs the first attempt to compile ancient pre- 
Islamic poetry, which attempt was undertaken by Hammad 
al-Rawiyah (i.e. the transmitter, ca. 713-72). 1 rlammad was 
born in al-Kufah of a Daylami (Persian) prisoner of war 2 and 
spoke Arabic with an accent, but he was one of those famed in 
Arabic annals for possessing phenomenal memories. In answer 
to a question by al-Walid II he offered to recite of thzjdhiliyah 
poems alone, rhyming in each of the letters of the alphabet, at 
least one hundred different odes for each letter. After listening 
in person and by proxy to 2900 gasTda/is, as we are told, al-Walid 
felt satisfied and ordered 100,000 dirhams for the reciter* 
rjammad's great merit, no doubt, was his collection of the 
famous Golden Odes, otherwise called Mu'allaqat. 

The provincial school of poetry in the Umayyad period was 
headed by al-Farazdaq (ca. 640-728* and Jarir (f ca. 729), that 
of the capital by al-Akhtal (ca. 640-ca. 7x0). All three were 
born and brought up in al- f Iraq. They were satirists as well as 
panegyrists. As poets the trio stand in the very front rank among 
those with whom Arab criticism has found nothing to compare 
since their time. Al-Akhtal, the Christian, was the champion 
of the Umayyad cause against the theocratic party; * al-Farazdaq, 
the dissolute, was the poet laureate of *Abd-al-Malik and his 
sons al-Walid, Sulayman* and Yazld; Jarir, the greatest satirist 
of the age, was the court poet of al-FJajjaj. 6 In their panegyrics, 
on which they lived rather than on their lampoons, these poets 
performed the same function as the party press today. Al- 
Farazdaq 7 and Jarir often attacked each other in the most 
virulent and abusive language, and al-Akhtal as a rule sided 
with the former. How lightly Christianity sat on the heart of the 
profane, wine-bibbing Akhtal is illustrated by the words of con- 
solation he addressed to his pregnant wife as she rushed to touch 

1 Ftkrist, p. 91; ibn-KbalHkan, vol. i, p. 294. 

* Ibn-Qutaybah, Madrif t p. 26S. 

» Ibn-Khalhkan, vol, i, p. 292; Agkani, vol. v, pp. 164-5. See *Iqd 3 vol. Hi, pp. 

4 Ibn Qutajbah, «S%xV,pp 301-4. 

* Ibid. pp. 297-8. For Farazdaq's eulogies of his patron caliphs sec his Diwan t 
ed. K. Boucher (Paris, 1875), passim. 

e Ibn-Qutaybah, p. 2S7* For samples of his encomiums see his Ditran (Cairo, 
I3 J 3)» vol. i. 

7 On him sec Aghoni, vol. viii, pp. 1S6-97, vol. xix, pp. 2-52; ibn-Khallikan, 
vol. ui f pp. 136-46 — dc Slane, vol. 111, pp. 612-28; Joseph Hell, Das Leben des 
Farazdak (Leipzig, 1903). 


the garment of a passing bishop and succeeded only in reaching 
the tail of the donkey he was riding: "He and the tail of his ass- 
there is no differcnceP > 1 

Education of the formal type was not common in those days* 
To the early Umayyad princes the iadtyafi, Syrian desert, acted 
as a sort of school to which they sent their young sons to acquire 
die pure Arabic tongue and become well versed in poetry. It was 
thither that Mu'awiyah sent his son and future successor Yasud* 
The public considered him educated who could read and write 
his native language, use the bow and arrow and swim. Such 
a person was styled al-kamil^ the perfect one. 5 The value of 
swimming was enhanced by life on the Mediterranean coast 
The ethical ideals of education as gleaned from the litera- 
ture bearing on the subject were courage, endurance in time 
of trouble {§abr\ observance of the rights and obligations of 
neighbourliness (Jiwar), manliness (mttrii'ah), generosity and 
hospitality, regard for women and fulfilment of solemn promises. 
Many of these will be recognized as the virtues highly prized in 
Bedouin life. 

After the time of *Abd-al-Malik the tutor or preceptor 
(muaddii), usually a client or a Christian, became a standing 
figure in the court* The tutor of this caliph's sons received the 
following injunction from their father; "Teach them to swim 
and accustom them to little sleep",® *Umar II took his children 
so severely to task for violating the rules of Arabic grammar 
that he was inclined to use corporal punishment.* Significant are 
the instructions he communicated officially to their tutor: "Let 
the first moral lesson impressed upon them be hatred of means of 
amusement, whose initiative is from the devil and whose con- 
sequence is the wrath of God*\ 5 

The public desiring to secure an education, as education went 
in those days, patronized the mosques where classes centring 
on the Koran and hadTth were given. The earliest teachers in 
Islam were therefore the Koran readers (gurra ). As early as 
the year 1? (63S) the Caliph 'Umar sent such teachers in all 

* Aghmi> vol* p, 183, where the anecdote is reported to illustrate his devotion 
to religion t 

* Ibn-SaM, voL iii, pt 2, p. or, fl. io-ii, ef. vol v, p. 30& 1L 7 Agkcni, 
vol* vi, p* 163, L 9. 

* Mubarrad, p. 77, U. 6-7. 

t £^ati^*>«* cl.UJcb&\ ed. Margohouth, roll {Levden, 1907V pp , 2 r^ 
Ibn-al-Jami, Sir**, pp. 357*8. Consult Jar/*, Baydn, vol. ii, pp. 13S-43. 



directions and ordered the people to meet with them on Fridays 
in the mosques. *Umar II sent as chief judge to Egypt Yazid 
ibn-abi-rjabib (t 746), who is said to have been the first to 
distinguish himself as teacher there. 1 In al-Kufah we read of a 
certain ai-Dahhak ibn-Muzahim* (f 723), who kept an element- 
ary school (kuttah) and made no charges for instruction. 3 In 
the second Moslem century we even hear of a Bedouin settling 
in al-Basrah and conducting a school where fees were charged. 4 

"Science," the Arabs say, ascribing the words to the Prophet, 
"is twofold: that which relates to religion and that which relates 
to the body [i.e. medicine]." 

The peninsular medicine was very primitive indeed. Legitimate 
remedies mingled with magical practices and talismans against 
the evil eye. A few prescriptions limiting treatment to the use 
of honey, cupping and bleeding embedded in traditions termed 
"the Prophet's medicine" have been preserved and handed down 
to posterity. The critical ibn-Khaldun in *his famous Muqad- 
damah* speaks slightingly of this type of medicine, declaring 
that the Prophet w as sent to teach religious laws and principles 
rather than medication. 

Scientific Arab medicine springs from sources mainly Greek 
and partly Persian. Persian medicine itself was influenced by 
Greek tradition. The list of Arabian physicians in the first 
century of Islam is headed by ai-IJarith ibn-Kaladah (f ca. 634) 
of al-Ta if, who studied in Persia.* Al-Hanth was the first 
scientifically trained man in the peninsula and won the honorary 
title of "the doctor of the Arabians". 7 In the art of healing he was 
succeeded, as was customary, by his son al-Nadr, whose mother 
was the Prophet's maternal aunt. 8 

By the time of the Arab conquest of Western Asia, Greek 
science was no more a living force. It was rather a tradition in 
the hands of Greek- or Syriac-writing commentators and practi- 
tioners. The court doctors of the Umayyads belonged to this 
group. Outstanding among them were ibn-Uthal, the Christian 

1 Suyuji, flusn, vol. i, p. 134; cf. Kindi, IVutah, p. 89. 

* Mentioned by Jofri*, Bayan, vol. i, p 175, as a tutor to *Abd-al«MahVs sons* 
■ Ibn-Sa'd, vol. vi t p. 210. * Yaqut, Udab&\ vol. ii, p. 339. * P. 412. 

* Ibn-abi-Usaybi'ah, *Uyun al-Anba* fi fabaqat a!-Afxbbd\ ed, A. Mailer (Cairo, 
1882), vol. i, p. 109; ibn al-*Jbri, p. 

7 Ibn-al-*Ibri, pp. 156-7; Qifft {/uiamd\ p, 161. 

* lbn abi-Usaybi'ah, vol. i, p. 113; cf. Nawawi Tchdhib, p. 593» 

CH. XXI AJWCA^IO ur uanupjciv liar* um/u iawo 

physician of Mu'awiyah, 1 and Tayadhuq, the evidently Greek 
physician of al-tfajjaj, 3 Some of Tayadhuq's aphorisms have 
been preserved, but none of the three or four books ascribed to 
him. A Jewish physician of Persian origin, Masarjawayh of al- 
Basrah, who flourished in the first days of Marwan ibn-al- 
rjakam, translated (683) into Arabic a Syriac treatise on 
medicine originally composed in Greek by a Christian priest in 
Alexandria, Ahrun by name, 3 and was thus responsible for the 
earliest scientific book in the language of Islam. The Caliph 
al-Walid is credited with having segregated persons afflicted with 
leprosy and with having made special provision for their treat- 
ment. 4 r Umar II is said to have transferred the schools of 
medicine from Alexandria, where the Greek tradition flourished, 
to Antioch and rjarran. 6 

Alchemy, like medicine, one of the few sciences in which the 
Arabs later made a distinct contribution, was one of the discip- 
lines early developed. Khalid (f 704 or 708), the son of the second 
Umayyad caliph and the " philosopher [fcakim] of the Mar- 
wanids", was according to the Fikrist* (our oldest and best 
source of information) the first in Islam to have translations 
made from Greek and Coptic books on alchemy, medicine and 
astrology, Though proved legendary, 7 the ascription of this 
activity to Khalid is significant, since it points out the truth that 
the Arabs drew their scientific knowledge from the older Greek 
sources and received their first impulse therefrom. With the name 
of this Umayyad prince legend associates the name of the famous 
Jabir ibn-Qayyan (Latinized Geber); but Jabir flourished later, 
about 776, and will be dealt with under the *Abbasids. Likewise 
the astrological and alchemical treatises ascribed to Ja'far al- 
Sadiq (700-765), 8 a descendant of *Ali and one of the twelve 
imams of the Shi* ah, have been discredited by critical modern 
scholarship. 9 The most unfortunate fact about the intellectual 

1 Ibn-abi-Usaybi'ah, vol. i, p. 116. 5 /ltd, p. Ml; see above, p. 220. 

* lbn*al-*Ibri } p. 192. * Ibid. p. 195; Jaban, vol. ii, p. 1196. 

* Ibn abi-Usaybi'ah, vol. i, p. u6, 11 25-6. * Pp, 242, 354. 

T JuUus Ruska, Arahiuhe Alehertisttn, I. Ch&hd Ibn Jazld Ibn Mudwija 
(Heidelberg, 1 924), pp. S s e g. 

* fihrtstt p. 317, 1. 25; ibn-KhalhUn, vol. t, p, 185 = de Slane, vol. i, p, 300; 
^»3)1 Khalfuh, Koikf ol-Zunun 'an Asami al-Kutub tv-al+Funun, ed, Fluegcl, 
vol ii (Leipzig, 1837), pp. 581 , 604, vol. m (London, 1842), pp. 53, 128. 

f J, Ruska, Arabischc Akhetnisten, II. (fa'far AlfSdtq t der Sechste /mart 
(Heidelberg, 1924), pp. 49-59. 



hfe under the Umayyads is that it left no extant traces in the 
form of documents from which we can properly evaluate it. 
Aichnec- If there ever was an indigenous Arabian architecture it could 
ture have existed only in al-Yaman, concerning which our present 
state of investigation and exploration is as yet unable to afford 
sufficient data. Even then South Arabian art could not have 
played much of a part in the northern hfe of the peninsula. Here 
the tent was the ordinary dwelling, the open air the temple and 
the desert sands the tomb. The inhabitant of the rare oasis had, 
as he still has today, a rude architecture represented by build- 
ings of sun-dried brick covered with fiat roofs of palm wood and 
clay, devoid of decoration and ornament and suited only to the 
simplest needs. Even the yijaz national shrine, al-Ka'bah, was 
nothing- but a primitive cube-like structure with no roof. As the 
structure stood at the time of Muhammad it was the work of a 
Coptic Christian carpenter who used wood salvaged from the 
wreck of some Byzantine ships cast ashore at Juddah. The rock- 
cut tombs of Mada*in Sahh (ancient al-flijr), the picturesque 
chambers carved in the multi-coloured sand cliffs of Petra, 
the colonnaded and arched palaces and sanctuaries of Pal- 
myra, such churches as the magnificent one rebuilt by the 
Ghassanid phylarch al-Mundhir ibn-al-rlarith on the grave of 
the martyred St. Sergius at al-Rusafah — all these indeed reveal 
a high order of artistic technique, but it is a technique borrowed 
from Hellenized Egypt and Syria and is not characteristically 

Architecture, as the first and most permanent of the arts, has 
in its religious variety always been the principal representative 
of the building art. The place of w r orship, literally the home of 
the deity, is the first structure on which the newly awakened soul 
strives to impress a loftier character than that required to satisfy 
the material needs of a human habitation. In the case of the 
Moslem Arabs art found its supreme expression in religious 
architecture. The Moslem architects, or the men they employed, 
evolved a scheme of building, simple and dignified, based on 
earlier patterns but singularly expressive of the spirit of the new 
religion. Thus we have in the mosque (from Ar. masjid^ a place 
to prostrate oneself) an epitome of the history of the development 
of Islamic civilization in its interracial and international rela- 
tionships. Perhaps no clearer example could be cited to illustrate 

2 5 8 


the cultural interplay between Islam and its neighbours than the 

Thc The simple mosque of Muhammad at al-MadTnah rather than 

or ai- Ue the Makkan sanctuary fortuitously became the general proto- 
Mndinah type of the congregational mosque in the first century of Islam. 
This mosque consisted of a courtyard open to the sky enclosed 
by walls of sun-baked clay. 1 As a protection from the sun the 
Prophet later extended the flat roof from the adjacent buildings 

Fr m Ibrihim Rtj at, A/tr at al ffarama) n 

THr mosque or makkah srEN i rom the east 

to cover the whole open court. The roof consisted of palm trunks 
used as columns to support a cover of palm fronds and mud. 2 A 
palm trunk fixed in the ground served first as a pulpit (mtnbar)* 
for the Prophet to stand on while addressing the congregation. 1 
This was later replaced by a small platform of tamarisk wood with 
three steps copied from those seen in Christian churches in Syria. 

1 Ibn Hisham, pp 336 7. 

* Biladhun, p 6, Bukhuri, vol. i, pp 106*7. 

* In Ontntahscht Siudtcn* Theodor Noldeke, ed C Bczold (Giessen, 1906), 
vol t, pp 331 seq , C H Becker has shown that the mtnbar was originally a raised 
seat or throne used by the ruler and not associated with worship 

4 Ibn-Sa'd, \o\ \, pt 2, p 9, F. Wiistenfeld, Geschichte der Stadt Medina (Got* 
twgen, 1860), p 63, cf Bukhan, \ o\ 1, p. 107. 



Whether the Prophet found it necessary to erect an indicator 
{tnihrab) of the direction of prayer {qiblah) in his mosque is not 
certain- In reciting their prayers the worshippers arranged 
themselves in ranks parallel to and facing the wall, originally 
toward Jerusalem and later toward Makkah. 1 From the top of 
the flat roof the Abyssinian Bilal with his stentorian voice called 
the believers to prayer. 2 Here, then, we have in their simplest 
forms almost all the rudiments of a congregational mosque — a 
court, some cover to shelter the worshipper and a pulpit. 

The subsequent advance of the Arabians fan wise through 
Western Asia and North Africa brought them into possession 

From /irjfatr JRtf " 1/ir at a/ {faramajn" 


of numberless standing and ruined structures representing a 
high artistic development and, what is more essential, it put them 
in control of the living technical knowledge and skill inherited 
by members of the conquered races from ages past. This tech- 
nique, applied to the religious needs of the Moslem community as 
indicated by the Madinah Mosque and modified by local con- 
ditions in different regions, produced in course of time what 

* has been variously designated Saracenic, Arabian, Moslem and 
Mohammedan 8 art. The structural material, whether stone, brick 
1 Ibn-SaM, vol. i, |>t. pp. 3*5. 

^ * * Oae or two years after his arrival in al-Madlnah the Prophet decided on the 
&dh$n as the formal call to prayer after considering the possibility of using the 
fta$u$ (wooden gong) as in the Christian churches Ihn-Sa'd, vol \. pt 2, p 7, 
r * Modern Moslems object to the use of this term because of its parallelism to the 
terra "Christian** applied to the worshippers of Christ, while they, as they maintain, 
*re not worshippers of Muhammad, 


or clay, was in each case determined by what had prevailed in the 
particular locality. In Syria Moslem architecture was influenced 
by the pre-existent Christian Syro-Byzantine style with its native 
and Roman antecedents. In Mesopotamia and Persia it was 
affected by the Nestorian and Sasanid forms based on an earlier 
native tradition. In Egypt many decorative motifs were supplied 
by the local Copts. Thus there gradually developed a number of 
distinct schools of Arab art: (i) Syro-Egyptian, following the 
Greco-Roman and native precedents; (2) 'Iraqo-Persian, based 
on Sasanid and ancient Chaldaean and Assyrian styles; (3) 
Spanish and North African, showing native Christian and 
Visigothic influence and often called Moorish or Maghribi; and 
(4) Indian, bearing clear marks of the Hindu style. In China the 
mosque is almost a replica of the Buddhist temple. 
Earh The first mosque erected in a conquered land was that of al- 

in?hc UC3 Basrah built by r Utbah ibn-Ghazwan (637 or 638), who also 
provinces founded the city itself as a winter camp for the army. This place 
of prayer was at first an open space fenced round with reeds. 
The edifice was later rebuilt of clay and sun-dried bricks (Izin) by 
abu-Musa al-Ash*ari, 'Umar's governor, who covered the roof 
with grass. 1 In 638 or 639 the invading general, Sa f d ibn-abi- 
Waqqas, established the other military camp, al-Kufah, with a 
simple mosque as its centre. Close by the mosque stood the 
governor's rcs\dcncc(daral-zmarati). As inal-Basrah,themosque 
was originally an open square with walls of reed and later of clay 
and sun-dried bricks. 2 Ziyad, the viceroy of Mu'awiyah, rebuilt 
this mosque with a colonnade following the Sasanid model. In 
other respects the mosque conformed to the type fortuitously 
formulated by Muhammad in al-Madmah. No trace is left of this 
structure or of the Basrahmosque. Of the *Ali mosque in al-Kufah, 
erected about 656 and visited in 1184 by the famous Andalusian 
traveller ibn-Jubayr, 3 little is known. 

The third important camp in Islam was that of *Amr ibn-al- 
'As in al-Fustat (Old Cairo). Here in 642 'Amr laid out the first 
Moslem place of prayer in Africa. In its original form , Amr > s 
mosque, of which there is likewise no trace, 4 was like the others 
a simple quadrangle with no niche (mihrab) to indicate the direc- 

1 Balldhun, pp 346 7, 350, YaqQt, Bulddn, \ol. i, p 642 

* Taban, vol* i, p. 24S9, Yaqut, vol iv f pp 323-4. * Pp 

4 For the many early rebuildmgs it underwent see YfiqQt, vol. iu, pp. 899 900. 


tion of prayer and with no minaret {midhanali). *Amr equipped 
it later with a pulpit built and presented by the Christian king of 
Nubia. 1 The next important mosque was that of *Uqbah ibn- 
Nafi* in al-Qayrawan (670-7$) which, like al-Fustat, was a 
military camp- * Uqbah started with the mosque and government 
house as a centre and grouped the peopled dwellings around 
them. 2 The mosque was rebuilt several times by his successors 
and finally by the Aghlabid Ziyadat-AIlah I (817-38), since 
whose days it has stood as one of the greatest sanctuaries in 

In those cases where Moslems established themselves in 
towns already standing, use was made of older structures. In 
al~Mada*m, Sa'd ibn-abi-Waqqas used the Iwdn (arched hall) of 
the Persian emperor as a place of worship.* In Damascus the 
Cathedral of St. John was rebuilt into a mosque by al-WalTd I.* 
But in IJims the same building is said to have been used in 
common as a mosque and as a church* 5 

The mifcrab, a recess or niche in the wall of the mosque indicat- 
ing the direction of prayer, was a later addition into the equip- 
ment of the mosque taken over from the church. AUWalid and 
his governor, *Umar ibn- f Abd-al-'AzIz, are usually credited with 
its introduction, 0 though some credit Mu'awiyah. 7 The Madfnah 
Mosque was evidently the first to get a mihrab. The mihrab 
rapidly became a common feature of all mosques and like the 
Christian altar appropriated for itself the largest measure of 
sacredness. As such it became the recipient of the varied forms 
of decoration lavished on it by the believers and may therefore be 
considered the standard for determining the quality of the con- 
tinually changing styles of Islamic decorative art 

A profane innovation in the mosque for which MiTawiyah* is 
generally blamed is the maqsiirah* a fenced-off part in the in- 
terior of the mosque reserved for the use of the caliph. Different 

1 MuqrTzi (Bulaq), vol u, p 248, 1. 30 1 Yaqut, vol iv, p. 213 

3 Taban,vol i,pp 2443,5451. 

* Baiudhuxi, p 125, Yaqut, vol. 11, p 591; lbn Jubayr, p 262. 

* J«akhri,p,6t;*bn«HaMqaI,p. 117; Maqdisi,p 156 

« Maqnti, \ol. u, p 247* 11. 16^7, Maqdisi, p. 8o, I 17; ibn-Battujah, \ol. i, pp 
W> 272; ibn Duqmaq, a^/rj^dr h-Wasi/ai *Igd al-Amdr, ed. Yollers (Bulac/ 
- * «93). iv» p. 62, 1. 12; Suyu|i, flusn t vol. ii, p. 149 
9 Ibn-aKFaqih, p„ 109, 1 2. 

' \ ^Pfe*** 0 *-"*?' 57i» Others ascribe it to Marwan ibn-ahHaUm (BattdhurL 
p 6, 1. 16 =r Hitti, p. 20) or to 'Uthtnan (Maqrfci, vol. it, p 247, 1. 32). 


reasons have been assigned for its introduction, the chief being 
protection for the person of the caliph after the Kharijite attempt 
upon his life. 1 The maq$urak was evidently used by the caliphs 
for retirement and rest or for deliberation. 2 

Like the mthrdb, the minaret was introduced by the Umayyads. 
Syria was therefore the original home of the minaret. Here the 
minaret took the form of the native watch-tower or of its suc- 
cessor the church tower, which was square. 3 

One of the earliest authorities* to mention a minaret on the 
Umayyad Mosque in Damascus explicitly states that it had been 
a watch-tower (ndtur) belonging to the Cathedral of St John. 
In Egypt the minaret is said to have been introduced by a 
governor of Mu'awiyah who provided each of the four corners of 
the Mosque of 'Amr in al-Fustat with one. 5 In al-'Iraq the Basrah 
Mosque was provided by Mu'awiyah's governor, Ziyad, with a 
stone minaret.* But it was again the famous Umayyad builder, 
al-Walld, who was probably responsible for many minarets in 
Syria and al-Hijaz Al-Walid*s governor, 'Umar, introduced the 
new feature into the Madinah Mosque. 7 After his time minarets 
became more and more numerous. 

While the square stone minaret of Syria was the oldest in 
Islam and served as prototype for others, especially in North 
Africa and Spain, it was not the only type developed. Moslem 
minarets followed the traditional shape of the towers of the 
country in which they arose. In Egypt minarets for many cen- 
turies were built only of brick and the famous lighthouse of 
Alexandria, the Pharos, is said by some to have exercised some 
architectural influence. In al- r Iraq a ninth-century Moslem 
tower-minaret at Samarra on the Tigris reflects the ancient 
Assyrian ziggurat (high place) with its seven stories representing 
the sun, the moon and the five planets then known, 8 
The Dome Because of its biblical association and as the first qiblah of 
Kock Islam 0 and the traditional stopping-place of Muhammad on 

1 Dinawan, p. 229; ibn-Khaldun, Muqaddamah t pp 224*6; cf. T<*bari, v °l« h 
P 3465> 11 s 0 

* Cf. Aghant, vol scvii, p. 1 16, 1 6 ■ Maqdisi, p. 182, 11. 8-9. 

* Ibn al Taqih, p 108, cf ibn BatJufah, vol 1, p. 203 

* MaqraS, vol u, p 24S. * Baladhuri, p. 348 
T Wustenfeld, Stadt ) p 75; lbn-Baftfctah, vol i, p 272. 

* Moms Jastrow, Jr , The Ctxnhzatton of Babylonia and Assyria (Philadelphia, 
I9i5)> PP 376-7 ScebcW, pp 418 19 

* Ibn-SaM, vol. 1, pL 2, p. 3; see Koran 2 : 136, 138. 



his famous nocturnal journey heavenward, Jerusalem very early 
acquired special sanctity in the eyes of all Moslems. 1 In 638 
when the Caliph 'Umar visited the city he possibly erected a 
simple place of worship of timber or brick on the Moriah hili> 
where once stood the Temple of Solomon and later a heathen 
sanctuary and a Christian church. When 'Abd-al-Malik felt 
the need for a centre of worship that should outshine the Church 
of the Holy Sepulchre, 2 rival the Mosque of Makkah then in the 
hands of the anti-caliph 'Abdullah ibn-al-Zubayr and deviate 
therefrom the current of pilgrimage, 3 he built in 691 on the same 
site in Jerusalem the Dome of the Rock, wrongly called the 
"Mosque of 'Umar u . The Dome therefore stands on one of the 
most sacred spots on earth, a spot hallowed by Jewish, heathen, 
Christian and Moslem associations and considered by tradition 
the place where Abraham intended to sacrifice his son Isaac. 
The Kufic inscription round its dome, a part of which was later 
falsified by the Caliph al-Ma'rnun, 4 is one of the oldest Islamic 
writings extant. 5 f Abd-al-Malik used materials derived from the 
Christian buildings that had stood there before they were 
destroyed or damaged by Chosroes II in 614 and employed native 
craftsmen, some of whom may have been of Byzantine origin. 
Here was a radical change from the old pattern, involving the 
introduction of mosaic and other decorative motifs and a dome 
intended to surpass the beautiful cupola of the Church of the 
Holy Sepulchre. 6 The result was an architectural monument of 
such noble beauty that it has scarcely been surpassed anywhere. 
To the Moslems the Dome of the Rock is more than a place of 
archaeological interest and artistic value — it is a living symbol 
of their faith. Although it has gone through a few changes and 
repairs, particularly as a result of the terrific earthquake of 
1016, 7 the Dome has preserved in general its original form and 
is therefore the earliest Moslem monument surviving. The oldest 
description of it is that of ibn-al-Faq!h, 8 written about 903, 
followed by that of al-Maqdisi 8 written about 985. 

1 For Jerusalem as the scene of judgment day see Nuwayn," vol i, pp 334 st$. 
a Maqdisi, p 159 * Ya*qubi, \ol 11, p 31 1. * Sec above, p. 220 

* In the Arab Museum at Cairo as a tombstone found in the cemetery of Old 
Cairo bearing a Kufic inscription dated A » 31/651-2. See Hasan Muhammad 
al-Hiwan in aUHtldl t vol xxxvui (1930), pp 1 179 91. 

* Maqdisi,p 150 The Dome <was modelled after the cathedral of Busra. Cf. M.S. 
Briggs, Mukamtrtadan Architecture in Egypt and Palesttne (Oxford, 1924), p 37. 

T Ibn-akAthIr, vol. ix, p. 209. * Pp. toa-xoi. * Pp 169-71. 


The Dome is the shrine of which the Aqsa Mosque is the ri 
sanctuary. The term al-Masjid al-Aqsa, as we have learned M 
before, is used in Arabic literature in a general sense to include 
the whole collection of sacred buildings comprising the Dome 
itself, the tombs, dervish monasteries (sing, taktyah or z&wiyak) 
and public fountains (sing, sabzl) erected by many caliphs from 
f Abd-aI-Malik to the Ottoman Sultan Sulayman the Magni- 
ficent which cover an area of some thirty-four acres. Strictly, the 
word Aq?a is applied to the mosque built by f Abd-aI-Malik not 
far from the Dome. In its construction use was made of the ruins 
of St Mary's Church of Justinian, which stood on that site until 
demolished by Chosroes* The Aqsa was rebuilt about 771 by 
the 'Abbasid al-Man§ur following an earthquake, and was later 
modified by the Crusaders. Salah~al-Dln (Saladin) restored it 
(1 187) to Islam, As in the case of the Dome our earliest descrip- 
tion of it dates from ibn-al-Faqlh 1 and al-Maqdisi. 2 

In 705 * Abd-al-Malik's son al-Walid took over the site of the Th 
basilica of Damascus dedicated to St. John, originally a temple ^ 
of Jupiter, and built there the grand mosque named after the 
Umayyads. 3 How much of the Christian construction was pre- 
served in al-Walld's mosque is difficult to ascertain. The two 
southern minarets stand on ancient church towers which be- 
longed to the old basilica, 4 but the northern minaret, used as a 
beacon tower, was certainly constructed by al-Walld and became 
the model for similar structures in Syria, North Africa and 
Spain. It is the oldest purely Moslem minaret surviving. The 
three naves and a transept, above which rises the great dome, 
with their mosaics, are also the work of this caliph who, we are 
told, employed Persian and Indian craftsmen as well as Greek 
artisans provided by the emperor of Constantinople. 6 Papyri 
recently discovered show that material and skilled workmen were 
imported from Egypt. 0 The walls were sumptuously decorated 
with marbles and mosaics. The geographer al-Maqdisi, 7 who 
visited the mosque in the latter part of the tenth century, speaks 

1 100. * Pp. x68-9 

v * Among the present leading mosques of Aleppo, Him? and Beirut arc some which 
'fctre churches in the past. 

* Cf. Yaqut, vol. ii, p» 593. 

4 Maqdisi, p, 15S; ibn-'AsJUdr, vol. i, p. 202; ibn-Jubayr, p. 261: cf. Tabari, 
toh ii, p* 

* H*l. Bell In X>trIsTaw 9 \o\ \\ (1911), pp. 274, 374. 

* mi see also Itfakhn, p 57; ibn-Uustah, p. 346. 


of its mosaics of gold and precious stones representing trees and 
cities and bearing- beautiful inscriptions. These same representa- 
tions, covered later by some pious caliph, were rediscovered 
in 1928. 1 In this mosque we find the first appearance of the semi- 
circular niche for prayer (mifrrdi). Here the horseshoe arch is 
also apparent. The vignette decorations served as a model for 
those of the great Qayrawan Mosque as remodelled by the 
Aghlabids in the ninth century. Though it was burned in 1069, 
again in 1400 by Tamerlane and for the last time in 1893, the 
Umayyad Mosque has always held its place in Moslem imagina- 
tion as the fourth wonder of the world. 2 It is also considered 
the fourth sanctuary in Islam (above, p. 221), 

In the period between the first primitive place of worship of 
al-Madinah and the two sumptuous mosques of Jerusalem and 
Damascus the evolution of the Moslem congregational (Jama ah) 
mosque was rendered complete. The congregational mosque, be 
it noted, has always been more than a building for devotion; it 
serves as a general assembly hall and as apolitical and educational 
forum. 3 The physical needs of the congregation are now amply 
provided for by a sheltered sanctuary and a covered approach; 
the ritual needs are met by the minarets, niches, pulpits and 
outside fountains for ablution; and the political needs by a majesty 
of plan4md splendour of ornament that help to serve notice on 
the world that the followers of the new faith are in nowise behind 
those* who worship in the grand cathedrals of Christendom. 

In architectural fields other than the religious the Umayyads Pa 
left but few monuments. Chief among these are the desert^ 
palaces erected by princes of the caliphal family. Most of the 
caliphs themselves, like the Ghassanid rulers before them, had 
country seats, and apart from Mu*awiyah and f Abd-al-Maiik 
hardly any of them lived in Damascus* In the capital itself 
nothing is left of the Khadra ,* the imperial residence adjoining 
the great mosque, nor are any traces left of al-I^ajjaj's residence 
of the same name, al-Qubbah al-Khadra\ $ in Wasit. But the 

L J E. tie Lorey and M. van Berchem, Let mosciquts ds tc vtosqult des Omayyadet & 
pantarWartSi 1930). K. A. C CresweU, Early Muslim Architecture^ pt. 1 (Oxford, 

s »JHba*ia~Faqih, p« 106; ibn-'Asakir, vol. i, p. 198; Yaqut, vol. il p. 59** 
>*Jn recent years the principal outbreaks against European authority in Syria 

,and Kgypt have had their inception in the Friday mosque meetings. 
»•* See above, p. 2*5. Ibn-al-Athir, voL v, p. 224, 
* Baladhuri, p. 290; Mas'udi, Tanbih, p. 360; Wqubi, p. 327 


fringes of the Syrian desert are strewn with the remains of 
palaces which were originally either Roman fortresses on the 
limes repaired and remodelled by Umayyad architects or which 
were erected by those architects on Byzantine and Persian 
patterns. The ruins of a palace known by the modem name of 
al-Ukhaydir lie not far from *Ayn at-Tamr on the eastern side 
of the Syrian desert, but it is not certain whether they belong to 
a late Umayyad or an early 'Abbasid structure. 1 On the south- 
western edge of the desert the remains are more numerous* 
Here Yazid, son of *Abd-al-Ma!ik, either built or restored a 
palace called Muwaqqar,* of which few remains are left. His son 
al-Walid II, who was addicted to the chase and leas innocent 
pastimes, occupied the neighbouring Qastal 3 and al-Azraq,* both 
Roman posts in Transjordan. To this same Caliph al-Walid II 
is ascribed the building of another palace in this region known by 
the modem name al-Mushatta (al-Mashta), 5 which \v a s the first 
in this region to be visited by archaeologists The structure was 
left unfinished at the death of its caliph-builder. The magnificently 
carved facade of this beautiful chateau is now in the Kaiser 
Friednch Museum, Berlin 6 The best known structure in this 
group is, however, Qusayr (the little palace of) *Anirah, lying 
cast of the Jordan in a direct line from the northern edge of the 
Dead Sea. This castle, built between 712 and 715 probably by 
aUWalld I, was discovered for the learned world by Alois Musil 7 
in 1898. The name is presumably modern, since we see no trace 
of it in Arabic literature. What makes this building especially 
remarkable is the extraordinary mufai paintings to be discussed 
in the next section. 

Most theologians of Islam maintained that the fepresenta- Pai 
tion of men and animals was the prerogative of God alone and 

* Gertrude L. Bell, Palace and Afosque at Ukkaidir (Oxford, 1914), p. 167. 

* Yaqut ? vol. iv, p. 687. A1-Balqa\ where the palace stood» was the southern 
region of the eastern Jordan district and comprised ancient Moab. 

4 From Latin casteltvm % castle. Vaqut, vol. iv, p. 95. 

* Tftbari, vol. ii f p. 1743. 

1 Bedouin pronunciation Mshatta, winter resort. 

* Consult R. E. Bnlnnow and A. v. DomaS2ewski, Dte Prwincia Arabia, 
vol. « (Strassburg, 1905)* VP 105-70; B. Schuiz and J. Strzygowbki, "Mschatta"! 
Jnhrbuch der konigUeh-prtustisckcn fCitnstsainmlungert y vol xxv (1904), pp. 


* gvtejr "Antra und andcre SMosser dsthch von Mcab % pt. x (Vienna, 1902), 
PP. 5 I Musil, guftjr *Amra, I. Ttxthand (Vienna, 1907). Muni tonsidered al- 
Waitd II the ouilder* 


consideredTiim who intruded on this domain a blasphemer. This 
hostile attitude toward representational art, a corollary of the 
uncompromising monotheism of the Koran and its prohibition 
of idolatry, derives its direct sanction from a hadtth in which 
the Prophet is reported to have declared that those to be most 
severely punished on the day of judgment are the painters. 1 
The term used, mu^awwirun (portrayers), would apply to sculp- 
tofs f as well. No representation of human beings therefore occurs 
anywhere on mosques, though in a few cases we find it on palaces 
and in books. Almost all decorative motifs in Moslem art are 
derived from the vegetable kingdom or from geometrical figures. 
The success achieved in later ages in this field is evinced by the 
term "arabesque" applied to this style of decoration in most of 
the European languages. But the Arabians themselves had no 
developed feelingfor either plasticor pictorial art, as their remains 
in the peninsula and the literary descriptions of their sanctuaries 
dearly indicate, What we call Moslem art was eclectic in its origin, 
motifs and execution, mostly the product of the artistic genius of 
the" subjugated peoples, but developed under Moslem auspices 
and peculiarly adapted to the demands of the Moslem religion. 
"The earliest illustrations of Moslem pictorial art are the 
frescoes of Qusayr 'Amrah, which suggest workmanship of 
Christian painters. On the walls of this Transjordanian pleasure- 
house 'and bath of al-Walid I are pictures of six royal per- 
sonage^, including Roderick, the last Visigothic king of Spain. 
u Q#ys&f* (Gaesar) and "Najask?* (Negus) are inscribed above 
two of thevfigures and "Chosroes" (in Greek) above the third. 
Sasanld influence is manifest in the painting. Other symbolic 
figuires represent Victory, Philosophy, History and Poetry, A 
hunting-scene depicts a lion attacking a wild ass. A number of 
nude pictures represent dancers, musicians and merrymakers. 
The ornament consists of draperies, foliage growing out of 
vases, vines, palm trees with clusters of fruit, laurel and birds of 
the desert. The inscriptions are mostly Arabic with a few names 
in Greek, . 

r In pre-Islamic time the Arabians had various types of song: Mu 
caravan, "martial, religious and amorous. Traces of the primi- 
<tive religious hymns are still preserved in the talbiyak* of the 
V 1 Bufehan, v<& vii, p. 61* 

, * The recitation of the hymn beginning vnth "Labkayka" (htre I am); Bukhari* 


pilgrimage ceremony. The inshdd, or chanting of poetry, is main- 
tained in the cantillation {tajwtd) of the Koran. Bui the caravan 
song, huda\ was their favourite and, in their estimation, the 
first form of singing. The huda — so goes the legend in al- 
Mas'udi 1 — originated v/hen one of the founders of the race, 
Mudar ibn-Ma'add,* fell from his camel, fractured his hand 
and in his beautiful voice began to cry, "Ya-yadah! Y5-yadah!" 
(O, my hand! O, my hand!), which synchronized with the steps 
of the camel and kept it moving. It was this cry that created 
the metre of rajas used in caravan songs and the simplest of 
all poetical metres. 

The South Arabians undoubtedly had their own types of song 
and musical instruments 3 about which very little is known, but 
it is doubtful whether that tradition formed a part of the heritage 
of the Northern, and consequently the Moslem, Arabians. The 
prc-Islamic inhabitants of al-rjhjaz used as their principal instru- 
ments the square tambourine (duff), the flute {qasabah y qassabah) 
and the reed pipe or oboe (samr, misrnar)* They also knew the 
skin-bellied lute (mis har) , 5 At about the time of the Prophet 
foreign musical influences were beginning to tell. The Ghas- 
samd princes kept choruses of Greek girl singers The Lakhmids 
of al-yirah had the Persian wooden-bellied lute (?ud t whence 
Eng. "lute"), which the Pjijazis borrowed. One tradition makes 
al-Nadr ibn-al-rjarith ibn-Kaladah, the physician and poet- 
minstrel whose pagan recitals competed with the revelations of 
Muhammad in winning the favour of the people, 6 responsible 
for the introduction of this instrument into Makkah from 
at-ftirah. 7 Another tradition credits ibn-Surayj (f ca, 726) 
with introducing this Persian lute. He is said to have seen it 
for the first time in the hands of Persian workers brought to 
Arabia in 684 by 'Abdullah ibn-al-Zubayr to rebuild the 
Ka*bah. 8 Later the wood-wind instrument called in Persian nay 
(vertical flute) was likewise borrowed, together with the name, 
as the researches of Henry G. Farmer 9 indicate. Evidently 

I VoU nn, p 92. * Cf. "Almond" m r Ch. 1 : 20. 

* Mas fldi, vol. vm, p. 93. « Agham, vol. 11, p 175. 
" *9*» vo1 * ui > P- *37» Mas'Qdi, vol. vui, p. 93. 

He is supposed to be the one referred to in sur 31:5-6 

* Ma$'udi,\ol vin,pp 93-4, b ^W,vol i> p. 98. 

pf Arcbtan Music to the XlUtk Century (London, 1929), p. 7. 


most of the Jahiliyah professional singers were female, and 
the Aghani? itself a book of songs, has handed down to us the 
names of a few of them. Some of the elegies mourning the 
famous hero Sakhr by his sister al-Khansa\ a contemporary of 
the Prophet and celebrated as the greatest poetess of the Arabs, 
were evidently composed as songs. 2 Most of the pre-Islamic 
poets evidently sang their compositions to music. 

Muhammad's denunciation of poets 8 was not directed against 
them as such but merely as the mouthpieces of heathenism. The 1 
Prophet may have looked with disfavour upon music also be- 
cause of its association with pagan religious rites. According 
to a hadith he is said to have declared the musical instrument 
to be the devil's muezzin, serving to call men to his worship, 4 
Most Moslem legists and theologians frowned on music; some 
condemned it in all its aspects; a few looked upon it as religiously 
unpraiseworthy {makruh) % though not actually sinful (hardm), 
but the view of the masses was better expressed in the adage, 
" Wine is as the body, music as the soul, and joy is their off- t 
spring". 6 

Soon after the first awe inspired by Islam had worn off the 
tendency of social change in al-PJijaz veered toward the esthetic 
side, especially under 'Uthman, the first caliph with a taste for 
wealth and display. Harmony between voice and instrument 
was then learned. What the Arabic authors style al-ghina al~ 
muiqan or aUraqtq t artistic or elegant singing, that highly 
developed type in which there is application of rhythm (tqa*) to 
the melody of song, became well established in al-fjijaz. Male 
professional musicians appear for the first time under the 
sobriquet mukhannathun^ i.e. effeminate, men who dyed their 
hands and affected the manners of women* Such a man was 
Tuways (the little peacock* 632-710) of al-Madmah, considered 
the father of song in Islam. Tuways is supposed to have intro- 
duced rhythm into Arabic music and to have been the first to 
sing in that language to the accompaniment of an instrument, 
the tambounne. 6 

1 Vol vm, p 3, vol x, p 48. * Aghanti vol. xm, p 140. * Sur, 26^2246 

* Consult Nuwayri, A'/^jyff£, vol iv,pp 132-5? Farmer, Arabian Muste t pp 24-5; 
A J Wensinck, A Handbook of Early Muhammadan Tradttton (Lcyden, 1927), 
p 171 

* N-vwajk, p 178 Consult Nnwayn, vol. iv, pp. 136 seq, 

* Aghant t vol 11, pp. 170, 171, 173. 


The first generation of Moslem singers, headed by Tuways, 
consisted of foreign libertines. Tuways left a progeny of students, 
chief among whom was ibn-Surayj (ea. 634-726), regarded as 
one of the four great singers of Islam. 1 Besides crediting him 
with the introduction of the Persian Jute tradition ascribes to 
him the use of the baton for directing musical performances. 
Ibn-Surayj was a freedman, the son of a Turk, and enjoyed 
the patronage of the famous beauty Sukaynah, daughter of ai- 
rjusayn. He counted among his teachers the Makkan negro 
client Sa'Id ibn-Misjah (or Musajjah, f ea~ 714). Sa'ld, the first 
Makkan musician and perhaps the greatest of the Umayyad 
period, is said to have travelled in Syria and Persia and to have 
been the first to put Byzantine and Persian songs into Arabic. 2 
He is evidently the one who systematized Arabian musical 
theory and practice of classical times. Another student of his 
was al-Ghand, 8 a half-breed Berber who, as a slave of Sukaynah, 
was also trained by ibn-Surayj * and, after his second master, 
attained the enviable rank of one of the four singers of Islam. 
The other two were ibn-Mtxhriz (f ca« 7/5), of Persian origin, 
popularly dubbed **the cymbalist [sanndj] of the Arabs", 6 and 
Ma*bad fl 743), a Madlnese mulatto who was a special favourite 
at the courts of al-Walld I, Yazld II and al-Walld IL* Before 
settling in the capital Ma'bad had wandered as a minstrel all 
over Arabia. Among the songstresses {qty&i) Jamtlah (f ca. 
720), a Madlnese freedwoman, was the artistic queen of the 
first generation^ Her residence proved a centre of attraction for 
the leading musicians and singers of Makkah and al-Madinah, 
many of whom were her pupils; conspicuous among the frequent 
auditors at her concerts was the poet of love, 'Umax ibn-abi- 
Rabl'ah. Among her pupils she counted FJababah and SaHamah, 
the favourites of Yazld IL The crowning event of Jamllah's 
picturesque career was her imposing pilgrimage to Makkah at 
the head of a gorgeous procession of singers and songstresses, 
poets and musicians, admirers and friends, all in gala dress and 
on richly caparisoned mounts. 8 

1 Occasional concerts and brilliant musical events held in the 

* Agkjnii vol. i, p, 9$. * ihd. voL iii, p. $4. 

* Ills first name \ras 'Abd-al-Mahk. Ghorld means "the good singer". 
\A&foH vol i, pp. 99-100. * Ihd vol. i> p, 151. 

* Ihd, voLvii* p. 135. * * 


homes of aristocratic ladies attracted throngs of dilettanti. The 
wood-bellied lute int$ educed from Persia through al-I$Irah had 
by this time partly superseded the native skin-bellied lute. 
Another favourite stringed instrument was the 7>it t zafak i a kind of 
psaltery. The wind instruments included the flute {qasabak) and 
reed pipe {vnztftd? )aswcll as thehorn (£?7<7).The percussion instru- 
ments were represented by the square tambourine, especially 
favoured by the women, and by the drum (iabl) and cymbals 
or castanets (sunuj). Notes, when known, were transmitted by 
word of mouth from one generation to another and have con- 
sequently been entirely lost. The Aghant is replete with verses 
set to music under the Umayyads, yet it has preserved not a 
solitary note for us. On the occasion of a visit to al-rjijaz by the 
Christian Hunayn al-rlin, dean of the 'Iraq singers, such a 
crowd gathered at the residence of Sukaynah to hear him that 
the porch on which they met collapsed, resulting in the death 
of the distinguished visiting artist. 1 The holy pilgrimage, with ail 
the celebrities it brought from different parts of the Moslem 
world, afforded the Hijaz musicians and singers an annual 
opportunity for the display of their talent. It was customary for 
them on special occasions to meet the caravan and perform en 
route. The Aghdni has left us a description of a pilgrimage- 
parade in which 'Umar ibn-abi-Rabfah, the representative of 
the poetical spirit of the age, clad in his finest attire and flirting 
with female wayfarers, took the leading parL In his company 
was ibn-Surayj, whose singing of *Umar's verses distracted the 
pilgrims from the observance of their ritualistic ceremonies. 2 

Thus did Makkah, and more particularly al-Madmah, become 
in the Umayyad period a nursery of song and a conservatory 
for music. 3 As such they supplied the court of Damascus with an 
ever-increasing stream of talent. In vain did the conservatives 
and ulcma press their objections, linking music and song with 
wine-bibbing and gaming as forbidden pleasures (inaldhi) and 
quoting Prophetic hadtths which place such diversions among 
the most powerful means by which the devil seduces men. The 
tide could not be stemmed; the Muses stood too high in public 
favour to suffer from such verbal attacks. Their devotees could 
quote equally striking sayings ascribed to the Prophet * and 

1 Aghant, vol 11, p 127. 1 Ibid, vol i, p. 102. s *!qct t \ol. in, p 237. 

* Gliuunh, Ihy£ W/upj ahDtn (Cairo, 1 334). *ol ii, pp 238^?. 


might very well argue that poetry, music and song did not always 
tend to debase, that they contributed their share to the refine- 
ment of social intercourse and to the sublimation of the relation- 
ships between the sexes. 1 It was the second Umayyad cahph, 
Yazld I, himself a composer, who introduced singing and musical 
instruments into the Damascus court. 2 He initiated the practice of 
holding grand festivities in the palace which featured wine and 
song, hereafter inseparable in royal festivals. 'Abd-al-Mahk 
patronized ibn-Misjah of the IJijaz school. His son al-Walld, 
the patron of arts, summoned ibn-Surayj and Ma'bad to the 
capital, where they were received with great honour. Yazld II, 
successor of the austere and puritanical 'Umar, reinstated poetry 
and music in public favour through his rjababah and Sallamah.* 
Hisham bestowed his patronage on rjLunayn of al-rjlrah. The 
pleasure-loving Walid II, himself a player on the lute and com- 
poser of songs, welcomed to his court a host of musician-singers, 
including the noted Ma'bad. 4 His reign coincided with the 
blossoming of music in the twin cities of al-rjtfjaz. So widely 
spread was the cultivation of the musical art under the last 
Umayyads that it provided their enemies, the 'Abbasid faction, 
with an effective argument in their propaganda to undermine 
the house of "ungodly usurpers"* 

1 *f$d, vol. iii, pp. 225-6, Nawaji, pp. 177-9. 

1 Agh&nt, vol. xvi, p. 70, cf. Mas'Qch, \ol. v, pp. 156-7 

* Mas*adi, vol. v, pp. 446 seq. * Hid. vol. vi, p. 4. 


4. Majiwan t (683-5) 


5. *Abd-al-MaUK (685-705) 


6. AlAvalId I 7, SulaymXn 9. YazId II 10. HishXm & 'Umap, Jl 
frosts) friS-17) (7*0-^4) (7^4-43) {717-20) 

r4, MAftwAK ir 

12, YAZfD III 13. XBRAHfM 
(744) (744) 


A tree showing- the genealogical relationship of the Marwamd 
caliphs of the Ura&yyad dynasty 

ARAB authorities highly esteem Hisham and, as we learned 
before* rightly rank him after Mu'awiyah and *Abd-al-Maiik as 
the third and last true statesman of the banu-Umayyah. His 
four successors, with the exception of Marwan II, who ended 
the dynasty, proved incapable if not dissolute or degenerate. 
Even, before the time of Hisham it became the fashion for the 
caliph, as exemplified by YazId II, to pass his time in the chase 
and over his wine cup and to be absorbed more in music and 
poetry than in the Koran and state affairs.* The eunuch system, 
which made the harem institution possible, was now fully de- 
veloped. Indulgence in luxury due to increased wealth and a 
superabundance of slaves was rife* Even the reigning family 
could no longer boast pure Arabian blood. Yazid III (744) was 
the first caliph in Islam born of a slave mother* 1 His two sue- 
cessors y were also sons of such freed women. 2 Such evils among 

Taban, U,p« *8?j&* Ya*<$fcbS, vol. «, p. 40%; Mas'udi, vol. vi, pp. 31-2. Sec 
wtaw, p. 332. 

, * YaVjj&bi t vtO,pju 403/404, 



the ruling class were only too symptomatic of general moral 
turpitude. The characteristic vices of civilization, especially 
those involving wine, women and song, had seized upon the 
sons of the desert and were beginning to sap the vitality of the 
youthful Arab society. 

The ancient and typical weakness of Arabian social life, with 
its over- emphasis on individualism, tribal spirit (^asabiyak) and 
feuds, was again reasserting itself. Such bonds as Islam had 
temporarily provided for holding in check the centrifugal forces 
latent in social life organized on a large scale were now becoming 
loose Beginning with 'Uthman, the hitherto repressed family 
spirit began to assert itself. 

North Arabian tribes had before Islam emigrated into al- 
'Iraq, where they established the Diyar Rabl'ah (the abode of 
the RabT'ah tribe) along the Tigris, and the Diyar Mudar (the 
abode of the Mudar tribe) along the Euphrates. The first place 
among the banu-Mudar was held by the Qays clan. Other tribes 
who had settled in Syria originally came from South Arabia 
and were therefore called Yamanites. In the Yamanite party 
of Syria the leading faction was the banu-Kalb. The Arabs of 
Khurasan, the north-eastern province of Persia, were mainly 
colonists from al-Basrah and were therefore mostly North 
Arabians; the leading tribe there was Tamlm, corresponding to 
Qays in the Euphrates region. In Khurasan the Yamanite party 
went by the appellation of Azdite, after the name of the leading 
family. In other regions the Qaysites were called Nizarites or 
Ma'addites. 1 But no matter what name these tribes went by 
the alignment was usually that of North Arabian against South 
Arabian tribes Conscious of some deep-rooted national distinc- 
tion, the North Arabians, who traced their descent to Ishmael and 
styled themselves 'Adnani, were never fully amalgamated with 
the South Arabians, who carried their pedigree back to Qahtan, 
the Joktan of Genesis 10 : 25 seq> The Qaysites became m course 
of time the nucleus of one political party, and the Yamanites of 

Mu'awiyah, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, raised his 
Syrian throne on Yamanite shoulders. His son and successor, 

On Arab tribes consult ibn«Durayd, Ishttqaq, F. Wustcnield, Geneabgiscke 
Tabellen der arafoschen Stamme (Gottingcn, 1852)5 and Register tu der gen *• 
logtschen Tabellen der orabischen Stair me (Gottingen, 1853). 


YazTd, whose mother, Maysun, belonged to the Kalbites of the 
Yamanite party, contracted a marriage with a Italbite woman. 
The jealous Qaysites refused to recognize his successor, 
Mu'awiyah II, and declared for the pseudo-caliph ibn-al-Zubayr, 
The decisive victory of the Kalbites over the Qaysites at Marj 
Rahit (684) secured the throne for Marwan, the father of the 
Marwanid branch of the Umayyad house. Under al-Walid I 
Qaysite power reached its culmination in al-yajjaj and his 
cousin Muhammad, the conqueror of India, and in Qutaybah, 
the subduer of Central Asia. Al-Walid's brother Sulayman 
favoured the Yamanites. YazTd II, however, under the influence 
of his Mudari mother patronized the Qaysite party, as did al- 
Walid II; Yazid III relied upon Yamani arms in wresting the 
sceptre from the hands of his predecessor, al-Walid II. Thus did 
the caliph in the latter part of the Umayyad period appear to 
be rather the head of a particular party than the sovereign of a 
united empire. 

The polarization of the Moslem world by this Arab dualism 
of Q&ys and Yaman, who also appear under other names, became 
now complete. It precipitated the downfall of the dynasty and 
its ill effects were manifest in years to come and in widely sepa- 
rated places. The district of Damascus itself was once the scene 
of relentless warfare for two years all because, as we are told, 1 
a Ma'additehad filched a water-melon from a Yamanite's garden. 
In distant Murcia in Spain blood is said to have flowed for 
several years because a Mudarite picked a vine leaf from the 
yard of a Yamanite. 2 Everywhere, in the capital as well as in the 
provinces, on the banks of the Indus, the shores of Sicily and 
the borders of the Sahara, the ancestral feud, transformed into 
an alignment of two political parties, one against the other, madfe 
itself felt. It proved a potent factor in ultimately arresting the 
progress of Moslem arms in France and in the decline of the 
Andalusian caliphate. In Lebanon and Palestine the issue seems 
to have remained a living one until modern times, for we know 
of pitched battles fought between the two parties as late as the 
eaily part of the eighteenth century. 

The lack of any definite and fixed rule of hereditary succession The 
to the caliphal throne caused no small measure of national dis- bIcnr 
turbance* Mu'awiyah initiated the wise and far-sighted policy 
* Abu-aUW*, yol. ii« p, 14. » Ibn- T Idtan, Bs^an, vol. », p. 84. 



of nominating his son as his successor, but the antiquated 
Arabian tribal principle of seniority in succession stood in con- 
stant conflict with the natural ambition of the ruling father to 
pass the sovereignty on to his son. Homage by the people became 
the only sure title to the throne. Of the fourteen Umayyad 
caliphs only four — Mu'awiyah I, Yazid I, Marwan I and e Abd- 
al-Malik — had their sons as immediate successors. The already 
complicated problem was rendered more complicated by the 
precedent established when the founder of the Marwanid branch 
designated his son *Abd-al-Mahk as his successor, to be fol- 
lowed by his other son *Abd-al- f Aziz. 1 Once in power, *Abd-al- 
Malik did the natural thing: he tried to divert the succession 
from his brother ^bd-al-'AzIz to his own son al-Walid, in the 
meantime designating his other son, Sulayman, as the second 
nominee. 2 Al-Walld in his turn made an unsuccessful effort to 
deprive his brother Sulayman of his right in favour of his own 
son. All these manoeuvres were, of course, far from being con- 
ducive to the stability and continuity of the regime. 
The The dissentient Shl'ites, who never acquiesced in the rule oi 

of^Al? nS *k e "Umayyad usurpers** and never forgave them the wrong 
they perpetrated against \Ali and al~Husayn, became now more 
active than ever. Their whole-hearted devotion to the descendants 
of the Prophet made them the focus of popular sympathy. To 
their camp rallied many of those who were dissatisfied politically, 
economically or socially with the rule of the banu-Umayyah, 
In al-'Iraq, where the majority of the population had by now 
become ShI'ah, opposition to Syrian rule, which arose originally 
out of the feeling that it deprived their country of its national 
independence, now took on a religious colour. In the Sunnite 
ranks themselves, the pietists charged the caliphs with worJdli- 
ness and neglect of koranic and traditional law and were every- 
where ready to give religious sanction to any opposition that 
might be raised. 

Wbb&sid Still another destructive force was in operation. The f Abbasids, 
claimants descendants of an uncle of the Prophet, al-* Abbas ibn- f Abd-al- 
Muttalib ibn-Hashim, began to press their claim to the throne. 
Cleverly they made common cause with the 'Alids by emphasiz- 
ing the rights of the house of Hashim. The Shi'ah regarded 
this family as consisting primarily of the descendants of r AU, but 
* Ya'qubi, vol. h t p. 306. * Jfbzd pp 334*5- 


the 'Abbasids included themselves as members of the Hashimtte 
branch of the Quraysh and therefore closer to the Prophet than 
the banu-Umayyah. 1 

Taking advantage of the widespread discontent and posing 
as defenders of the true faith, the descendants of al- c Abbas 
soon became the champions and leaders of the anti-Umayyad 
movement. For their headquarters and seat of propaganda they 
chose a litde village south of the Dead Sea, al-Humaymah 2 by 
name, seemingly harmless and aloof from the rest of the world 
but in reality strategically close to the caravan route and the 
junction of die pilgrim roads. Here the stage was set for the 
earliest and most subtle propagandist movement in political 

Non-Arabian Moslems in general and Persian Moslems in The 
particular had good reason for dissatisfaction. Far from being Ktan* 
granted the expected economic and social equality with Arabian 
Moslems, they were instead generally reduced to the position of 
clients and were not always exempted from the capitation tax 
paid by non- Moslems. What made them more discontented was 
the consciousness that they represented a higher and more 
ancient culture, a fact acknowledged even by the Arabians 
themselves. It was among such discontented neophytes that the 
Shl'ite-'Abbasid seed found fertile soil. From al-'Iraq, always 
loyal to the 'Alid cause, the Shfah doctrine spread into Persia 
and struck root cspeciallyin the north-eastern province, Khurasan, 
which was then much larger than now. In Persia the way had 
been somewhat prepared by the Azd-Mudar feud perpetuated 
by the Arabs. But deeper forces were at work. Under die guise 
of Shfah Islam, Iranianism was revivifying itself. 

The zero hour in the life of the Umayyad dynnsty approached 
when a coalition was effected between the Shf ite, Khurasanian 
and *Abbasid forces which was utilized by the last for their own 

* Hoshim 

- "Abdullah Abu-Jalib Al-'AccaS 

Mohammad V\u+Fatimah 

* Yft'q&faS, vol. ii, pp. 356-7; J?aUn, pp. 192.3; T*haH, vol. iii, p. 34; YaqQt, 
voLu,p.342; Musll, Northern i£*£&t (New York, 1926), pp. 56-61 and mapin pocket 


advantage. This coalition was headed by abu-aU c Abbas, a great- 
great-grandson of al-' Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet. Under his 
leadership revolutionary Islam opposed the existing order with 
a feigned ideal of theocracy and a promise of return to ortho- 
doxy. On June 9, 747, the long-meditated revolt broke out when 
the 'Abbasid agent in Khurasan, abu-Muslim, a Persian freed- 
man of obscure origin, 1 unfurled the black banner, originally 
the standard of Muhammad but now the 'Abbasid emblem. At 
the head of the Azd (Yamani) tribe he entered the capital, Marw, 
but the majority of his adherents were Iranian peasants and 
clients rather than Arabs 2 In vain did Nasr ibn-Sayyar, the 
Umayyad governor of Khurasan, appeal to Marwan II for aid. 
In a pathetic letter he had recourse to poetry. 3 But Marwan, 
though in personal energy and capacity superior to his immediate 
predecessors, made no response, for his hands were full with an 
uprising at home which had spread from Palestine to rjims. 
It was the same old trouble between Qaysites and Yamanites 
which, exploited by ambitious aspirants to the caliphate, had 
assumed the proportions of civil war under his two predecessors 
Yazld III and Ibrahim. Yazld had made matters worse by 
espousing the Qadarite doctrine. Ibrahim headed the Yamanite 
party. Marwan II, favoured by the Qaysites, had committed the 
fatal mistake of transferring not only his residence but also 
the state bureaux to rjarran in Mesopotamia, thus alienating 
the sympathies of all Syrians. Besides the Syrians, the mainstay 
of Umayyad power, the Kharijitcs of al-'Iraq — ever the deadly 
enemy of established order — were now in open rebellion.* In 
Spain the ancestral feuds were rending in pieces that western- 
most province of Islam. For three years the sexagenarian caliph, 
who previous to his accession had won the sobriquet Marwan 
ai-Himar (the ass) for his unfailing perseverance in warfare,* 
held the field against the Syrian and Kharijite insurgents and 
proved himself an able general. To him as the military organizer 
of these campaigns is ascribed the change from fighting in lines 
($ufi!f)> a practice hallowed by association with the Prophet's 
method of warfare, to that of cohorts (karddis\ small units more 
compact and at the same time more mobile. But it was too late 

1 Cf. Fak/trt, p. 186. * Tabari, vol. it, pp. 1953 sea.; Djnawari, pp. 359^ 

* Fakhn, p 194, Nicholson, Literary History t p. 2SX. 

* Tabari, vol u pp. 1943-9- * Fakhri,?. 184. 


for him to redeem the general situation. The sun of the banu- 
Umayyah was fast approaching its setting. 

The fall of the capital of Khurasan, Marw, was followed in 
749 by the fall of the leading city of al-'Iraq, al-Kufah, the 
hiding-place of abu-al- f Abbas, which surrendered to the insur- 
gents without much opposition. Here on Thursday, October 30, 
749, public homage was paid in the chief mosque to abu-al- 
'Abbas as caliph. 1 The first 'Abbasid caliph was thus enthroned. 
Everywhere the white banner of the Umayyads was in retreat 
before the black banner of the *Abbasids and their confederates. 
Marwan resolved on a last, desperate stand. With 12,000 2 men 
he advanced from rjarran and was met (January 750) on the 
left bank of the Greater Zab, a tributary of the Tigris, by the 
enemy forces headed by 'Abdullah ibn- f Ali, an uncle of the new 
caliph. The will to win and the expectation of victory were no 
longer on the side of the Syrian army and its defeat was decisive. 
After the battle of the Zab Syria lay at the feet of the 'Abbasid 
victors. Its leading towns, one after the other, opened their 
gates to 'Abdullah and his Khurasani troops. Only at Damascus 
was it found necessary to lay siege, but die proud capital sur- 
rendered on April 26, 750, after a few days. From Palestine 
'Abdullah sent a detachment in pursuit of the fugitive caliph, 
who was caught and killed (August 5, 7S°) outside a church in 
which he had sought refuge at Buslr 3 (Busiris) in Egypt, where 
his tomb is still pointed out. His head and, according to al- 
Mas'udi, 4 the insignia of the caliphate were sent to abu-al- 

The 'Abbasids now embarked upon a policy of exterminating 
the Umayyad house. Their general 'Abdullah shrank from no 
measure necessary for wiping out the kindred enemy root and 
branch. On June 25, 750, he invited eighty of them to a banquet 
at abu-Futrus, ancient Antipatris on the *Awja* River near 
Jaffa, and in the course of the feast had them all cut down. After 
spreading leathern covers over the dead and dying he and his 
lieutenants continued their repast to the accompaniment of 

1 X* tqfiVl ' voi p P* 4 *7-i$; Tabari, vol. hi, pp. 27-33; Mas'udi, vol. vi, pp. 87 , 08. 

* Talari, vol. iii, p. 47 (cf. p. 45). See above, p. 226. 

3 Also Abutfr, probably Bu$ir al-Malaq in the Fayyum. Consult Sawirus ibn*al- 
Muqaffa , Siyar ai^BafdHkah al-fskcndardniyin, cd. C. F. Seybold (Hamburg 
tou), pp. 181 scg.; Jabari, vol. iii, pp. 49.50. 

* VaUi,p.77. 


human groans. 1 Agents and spies were sent all over the Moslem* 
world to hunt down iugitive scions of the fallen family, some of 
whom "sought refuge in the bowels of the earth". 2 The dramatic 
escape of the youthful c Abd-al-Rahman ibn-Mu r awiyah ibn- 
Hisham to Spain, where he succeeded in establishing a new 
and brilliant Umayyad dynasty, belongs to a later chapter. 
Even the dead were not to escape the ruthless chastisement 
meted out by the 'Abbasids. The remains of the caliphs in 
Damascus, Qinnasrin and other places were exhumed by 'Ab- 
dullah and desecrated. The corpse of Sulayman was dug out 
from Dabiq. That of Hisham was disentombed from al-Rusafah, 
where it was found embalmed, and after being scourged eighty 
times was burned to ashes. 3 Only the tomb of the pious 'Umar II 
escaped violation. 

With the fall of the Umayyads the glory of Syria passed away, 
its hegemony ended. The Syrians awoke too late to the realiza- 
tion that the centre of gravity in Islam had left their land and 
shifted eastward, and though they made several armed attempts > 
to regain their former importance all proved futile. At last they 
set their hopes on an expected Sufyani, 4 a sort of Messiah, to 
come and deliver them from the yoke of their 'Iraqi oppressors. 
To the present day one hears Moslems in Syria referring to a 
forthcoming descendant of Mu'awiyah. But the Umayyad fall 
meant more than this. The truly Arab period in the history of 
Islam had now passed and the first purely Arab phase of the 
Islamic empire began to move rapidly toward its close. The 
'Abbasid government called itself daxulak* new era, and a new 
era it was. The 'Iraqis felt freed from Syrian tutelage. The Shutes , 
considered themselves avenged. The clients became emanci- 
pated. Al-Kufah, on the border of Persia, was made the new - 
capital. Khurasanians formed the caiiphal bodyguard and 

1 Ya'qubi, vol. ii, pp. 425-6; Mas'udi, vol. vi, p. 76; ibn-al-Athir, vol. v, pp. 
329-30; Mubarrad, p. 707; Aghcni, vol. iv, p. 161; cf. ibid. pp. 92-6; Fc&hri t pp. 
203-4; Theophanes, p. 427. Compare the story of Jehu's extermination of Ahab's 
house (2 K. 9 : 14-34) and the destruction of the MamlGks of Egypt by Muhammad 
*AH{Jurji Za\ dan, TarihhMisr a}-][Iadtih t 3rd ed., Cairo, 1925, vol. ii, pp. 160-62), 

* Ibn-Khaldun, vol. iv, p. 120. 

* Mas'udi, vol. v, p. 471; cf. Ya'qubi, vol. ii, pp. 427-8. See Fakhri % p. 204. 

* Xabari, vol. Hi, p. 1320; ibn-Miskawayh, Tajarib al-Utnam %va~Ta'd$ub al* 
Him am, cd. dc Gocje and de Jong, vol. ii (Leydcn, 1871), p. 526; Yaqut, voU iv, 
p. 1000; Agh&ni, vol. acvi, p. £8; II. Latnmens, Btudes sur It sitett des Omctyyadts 
(Beirut, t93<>), PP- 3<U*4oS. 

1 Tabari, vol. iii, p. 85, H. 16, 17, p. 115,1.9. 


Persians occupied the chief posts in the government. The 
original Arabian aristocracy was replaced by a hierarchy of 
officers drawn from the whole gamut of nationalities under the 
caliphate. The old Arabian Moslems and the new foreign con- 
verts were beginning to coalesce and shade off into each other, 
Arabianism fell, but Islam continued, and under the guise of 
international Islam Iranianism marched triumphantly on* 


THE third act in the great political drama of Islam opens with the 
Caliph abu-al-' Abbas (7S°-54) Paying the chief role. Al-*Iraqis 
the stage. In his inaugural khufbak, delivered the preceding year 
in the mosque of al-Kufah, the first 'Abbasid caliph referred to 
himself as al-saffdk, 1 the bloodshedder, which became his sobri- 
quet. This was ominous, since the incoming dynasty, much more 
than the outgoing, depended upon force in the execution of its 
policies For the first time in the history of Islam the leathern 
spread beside the caliph's seat, which served as a carpet for the 
use of the executioner, became a necessary adjunct of the 
imperial throne. This al-Saffah became the founder of the most 
celebrated and longest-lived Arab dynasty in Islam, the third, 
after the Orthodox (Rashidun) and the Umayyad. From 750 to 
1258 the successors of abu-al-* Abbas reigned, though they did 
not always rule. 

At the time of its achievement the 'Abbasid victory was gener- 
ally hailed as representing the substitution of the true conception 
of the caliphate, the idea of a theocratic state, for the purely 
secular state (mulk) of the Umayyads As a mark of the religious 
character of his exalted office, the caliph now donned on such 
ceremonial occasions as the day of his accession and the time 
of the Friday prayer the mantle (purdalt) once worn by his dis- 
tant cousin, the Prophet. 2 He surrounded himself with men 
versed in canon law r whom he patronized and whose advice on 
matters of state affairs he sought. The highly organized machinery 
for propaganda which helped to undermine public confidence 
in the Umayyad regime was now cleverly directed toward per- 
manently entrenching the 'Abbasids in public favour. From the 
very beginning the idea was cultivated that authority should 

1 Taban, vol P* 30» L 20, Jbn al-Athlr, vol. v, p 316. 
* The genealogical tree on the follow ing page makes clear the relationship be- 
twecn the 'Abbj^ds and Muhammad 



remain forever in *Abbasid hands, to be finally delivered to 
Jesus ('Isa), the Messiah. 1 Later the theory was promulgated * 
that if this caliphate were destroyed the whole universe would 
be disorganized.* As a matter of fact the religious change was 
more apparent than real; although unlike his Umayyad pre- 
decessor he assumed piety and feigned religiosity, the Baghdad 
caliph proved as worldly-minded as lie of Damascus whom he 
had displaced. In one respect there was a fundamental difference: 
the Umayyad empire was Arab, the 'Abbasid was more inter- 



•AMulUh Abu-Talib Al-'Abbos 

Muhammad *AH 'Abdullah 


asaii AHiusayn 'AH 


X. Al-Saffah 2. Al-Man§Ur 

(750-54) ' (754-75) 

Tree showing the relationship between the *Abbasids and Muhammad 

national. The *Abbasid was an empire of Neo-Moslems in which 
the Arabs formed only one of the many component races. 

There were also other differences. For the first time in its 
history the caliphate was not coterminous with Islam. Spain and 
North Africa, *Uman, Sind and even Khurasan 3 did not fully 
acknowledge the new caliph. Egypt's acknowledgment was more 
nominal than real. Wasit, the Umayyad capital of al-'Iruq, held 
out for eleven months. 4 Syria was in constant turmoil, chiefly as 
a result of the outrages perpetrated against its royal house. The 
f Abbasid f Alid alliance cemented solely by a feeling of common 
hatred toward a mighty foe could not long survive the overthrow 
of that foe. Those 'Alids who had naively thought the 'Abbasids 
were fighting the battle for them were soon to be disillusioned. 

Feeling insecure in the fickle and pro-'Alid Kufah, al-Saffah 
built a courtly residence, ai-Hashimlyah 5 (after Hashim, an early 

1 Tobari, vol. hi, p. 33; ibn-al-Athlr, vol. v, p. 318 

I ;* e P 4S7* s Dinawan, p 373. 

* gmawan, pp. 367-72; Taban, vol. iu, pp. 361-6; ib^al-Athlr, voh v, p. 33S. 

* Ya qubt, vol. u, p. 429, Binawari, pp. 371*3. 

ancestor of the family), in al-Anban 1 AI-Kufah's sisters city, al- 
Basrah, was avoided for the same reason, also because of its 
southern situation, which made it unsuitable for a centre of a 
kingdom. In his newly erected capital al-Safiah died (754) of 
smallpox in his early thirties. 2 
ai MajifGr, His brother and successor, abu-Ja*far (754-75), who now 
/oundw assumed the honorific title al-Mansur (rendered victorious [by 
of the God]), proved one of the greatest, though most unscrupulous, of 
dynasty ^ e 'Abbasids. He, rather than al-Saffah, was the one who firmly 
established the new dynasty. All the thirty-five caliphs who 
succeeded were his lineal descendants. His uncle 'Abdullah, the 
hero of the ZSb and under al-Saffah the governor of Syria, now 
disputed the caliphate with his nephew, but was defeated 
(November 754) by abu-Muslim at Naslbln (Nisibis). After seven 
years' imprisonment he was ceremoniously conducted into a house 
the foundations of which had been purposely laid on salt sur- 
rounded by water, which buried him under its ruins. 3 Immediately 
after the victor} 7 of Na§Ibin the turn of abu-Muslim himself came 
On his way back to his province, Khurasan, which he ruled 
almost independently, abu-Muslim was induced to turn aside 
from his march and visit the caliphal court The Khurasatii 
leader, to whose sword after that of 'Abdullah the 'Abbasids 
owed their throne, was attacked while having an audience with 
the cahph and treacherously put to death. 4 A curious new sect 
of Persian extremists, the Rawandlyah, who tried to identify the 
cahph with God, were mercilessly put down (758).* The revolt of 
the disgruntled Shfah, headed by Ibrahim and by his brother 
Muhammad, surnamed al-Nafs al-Zaklyah (the pure soul), the 
great-grandsons of al-rjfasan,° was ruthlessly crushed. Muham- 
mad %vas killed and gibbeted (December 6, 762) in al-Madinah; 
Ibrahim was decapitated (February 14, 763) near the unruly 
Kufah and his head dispatched to the caliph. 7 To the irrecon- 
cilable 'Alids the 'Abbasid caliphs were usurpers, the rightful 
caliphs, imams, being the descendants of *Ali and Fatimah. 

1 On the left bant of the Euphrates, in the north of al-*lraq. The site is today 
quite waste 

3 Ya'qubi, vol. u, p 434; Taban, vol 111, pp 87-8. 

1 Taban, vol m, p 330 * Ibtd pp. 105-17; DInawari, pp. 376 8. 

6 Taban, \ol lit, pp 129 33; Mas'fidt, vol vi, pp 26, 54 seq\ Baghdad!, cd 
Hitti p 37 Raw and was a town near Isbahan 
• bee genealogical tree on following page 

1 Taban, vol.111, pp. 245-65, 315-16. Mas'udx, vol. vi,pp 189 203; Pmaw*an,p.^8i 


The 'Alids never ceased to exercise a disruptive influence on 
the body politic of Islam, and persisted in claiming for their 
imams a measure of hereditary wisdom derived from the Prophet, 
as well as a sort of special divine illumination. In Khurasan 
the insurrection of Sunbad (Sinbadh) the Magian (755)* who 
came out as the avenger of abu-Muslim, and that of Ustadhsis 
(767-8), were quenched; 1 Persia, where strong national senti- 
ments were interwoven with ancient Zoroastrian and Mazdakian 
religious ideas, was at least temporarily pacified. Thus was the 
greater part of the Islamic empire once more consolidated, with the 





(ancestor of 'Abbasid 

Fatimah + *AU 

iBRAHfM (t 763) 






Muhammad (t 762) 

The descendants of 'AH 

exception of North Africa, where the caliph's authority did not ex- 
tend much beyond al-Qayrawan, and of Spain, where the 'Abbasid 
caliph found in the Umayyad 'Abd-al-Rahman (whose mother, 
like al-Mansur's, a was a Berber slave) more than his match. 

With the domestic situation well in hand the baneful frontier 
wars with the eternal enemy to the west, the Byzantines, which 
had been carried on intermittently for over a century, were 
resumed in the nature of raids on neighbouring- strongholds. The 
ruined border fortresses {tkughfir) of Malatyah (Melitene) in 
Lesser Armenia and al-Ma§st§ah in Cilicia were restored. 3 Even 

1 Tabari, vol. ui, pp. 119.20, 354-8; Ya'qubi, >ol. ii, pp. 441-2; ibn-al-Athir, vol. 

* YaVH, vol. ii, p, 436; ibn-Qutaybah. Afa\irif, p, 191. 


the naphtha springs of Baku 1 were reached and a tax levied on 
them. Mountainous Tabaristan, south of the Caspian (Bahr al* 
Khazar), where a family of high functionaries of the defunct 
Sasanid empire had maintained a virtually independent rule, 
was now temporarily annexed* On the Indian frontier Qandahar 
(al-Qunduhar), among other places, was reduced, and a statue 
of the Buddha found in it was demolished. 8 In fact, al-MansuVs 
lieutenants carried their raids as far as Kashmir (Ar. QashmTr), 
the rich and extensive valley of the north-west Himalaya. A 
fleet was dispatched (770) from al-Basrah to the delta of the 
Indus to chastise pirates who had ventured to plunder Juddah. 
Madinat In 762 al-Mansur, who had his residence at al-Hashimiyah 
ni-sdim k etween ai.Kufah and al-Hirah, 4 laid the foundation stone of his 
new capital, Baghdad, scene of the legendary adventures so 
brilliantly commemorated by Shahrazad in The Thousand and 
One Nights. The site was an ancient one occupied by a Sasanid 
village of the same name, 6 meaning "given by God". Al-Mansur 
fixed on the site after canvassing a number of others "because", 
said he, "it is excellent as a military camp. Besides, here is the 
Tigris to put us in touch with lands as far as China and bring 
us all that the seas yield as well as the food products of Meso- 
potamia, Armenia and their environs. Then there is the Eu- 
phrates to carry for us all that Syria, al-Raqqah and adjacent lands 
have to offer." 6 In the construction of his city, completed in four 
years, al-Mansur spent some 4,883,000 dirhams 7 and employed 
about a hundred thousand architects, craftsmen and labourers 
drawn from Syria, Mesopotamia and other parts of the empire* 
Madinat al-Salam (city of peace), which was the official name' 
given by al-Mansur to his city, lay on the west bank of the Tigris 
in that same valley which had furnished sites for some of the 
mightiest capitals of the ancient world. It was circular in 
form, whence the name the Round City (al-mudazvwarah), with 

double brick walls, a deep moat and a third innermost wall rising 


1 Mas'udi, vol. ii, p. 25; Yaqut, vol. i, p. 477. 

* Ya*qQbi, vol. ii, pp. 446*7. 

3 Baladhuri, p. 445; Yaqut, vol. iv, pp. 183-4; Ya'qQbi, vol «, p. 449. 

* Ya'qubi, Bulddn, p. 237. 

* Ibid p. 235, Baladhuri, p. 294»Hitti, p. 457. 

* Tftban, vol. in, p. 272. 

T Al-Khatfb (al-Baghdadi), Ta'riih Baghdad, vol. i (Cairo, 193 1 ), pp. 69 70; 
Tabari, voL hi, p 326; YaqQt, vol. i, p. 683. 

* Tabari, vol. hi, p. 276; Ya^uU. p. 238; Kha^Ib, vol. i, pp. 66-7. 



ninety feet and surrounding the central area. The walls had four 
equidistant gates from which four highways, starting from the 
centre of the circle, radiated like the spokes of a wheel to the 
four corners of the empire. The whole thus formed concentric 
circles with the caliphal palace, styled the Golden Gate (6d6 
al-dhahab) on account of its gilded entrance, or the Green Dome 
{al-qubbah al-k7iadra)> as the hub. Beside the palace stood the 
great mosque* The dome of the audience chamber, after which 
the imperial palace was named, rose to a height of one hundred 
and thirty feet. Later tradition topped it by the figure of a 
mounted man holding a lance which in time of danger pointed 
the direction from which the enemy might be expected. 1 But 
Yaqut, quick to detect the fallacy, remarks that the figure 
necessarily pointed always in some direction, which would mean 
the existence of a constant enemy threatening the city, and 
declares the Moslems "too intelligent to believe such fabrica- 
tions". 2 The adjacent ruins of the Sasanid capital, Ctesiphon, 
served as the main quarry for the new city and furnished the 
necessary building material, while brick was also made on the 
spot. Before his death al-Mansur built on the bank of the Tigris 
outside the walls another palace, Qasr al-Khuld (palace of 
eternity), so called because its gardens were supposed to .rival 
those of Paradise (Koran 25 ; 16-17), and farther north a third 
palace called al-Ru^afah (causeway), which was intended for the 
crown prince, the caliph's son al-Mahdi. 

The horoscope under which al-Mansur started the building 
of this military post for himself, his family and his Khurasanian 
bodyguard certainly proved fully as auspicious as predicted by 
the court astrologer. 8 In a few years the town grew into an 
emporium of trade and commerce and a political centre of the 
greatest international importance. As if called into existence by 
a magician's wand this city of al-Mansur fell heir to the power 
and prestige of Ctesiphon, Babylon, Nineveh, Ur and other 
capitals of the ancient Orient, attained a degree of prestige and 
splendour unrivalled in the Middle Ages, except perhaps by 
Constantinople, and after many vicissitudes was recently re- 
suscitated as the capital of the new 'Iraqi kingdom under a truly 
Arabian king, PayPal. 

( * Khatfl, voU,p 73, t Voi.i p 

* Yaqilt, vol. \ t pp t 6S4-S; Khatib, vol. i, pp, 67*8 


The new location opened the way for ideas from the East. 
Here the caliphs built up a government modelled on Sasanid 
Chosroism. Arab Islam succumbed to Persian influence; the 
caliphate became more of a revival of Iranian despotism and less 
of an Arabian sheikhdom. Gradually Persian tides, Persian 
wines and wives, Persian mistresses, Persian songs, as well as 
Persian ideas and thoughts, won the day* Al-Mansur, we are 
told, was the first to adopt the characteristic Persian head-gear 
(pi. qalanis)) in which he was naturally followed by his subjects, 1 
Persian influence, it should be noted, softened the rough edges 
of the primitive Arabian life and paved the way for a new era 
distinguished by the cultivation of science and scholarly pur* 
suits. In two fields only did the Arabian hold his own: Islam 
remained the religion of the state and Arabic continued to be the 
official language of the state registers. 
A Persian Under al-Mansur the vizirate, a Persian office, appears for the 
family first time in Islamic government. Khalid ibn-Barmak was the first 
incumbent of that high office. 3 Khalid's mother was a prisoner 
whom Qutaybah ibn-Muslim captured (705) in Balkh; his father 
was a barmak, i.e. chief priest, in a Buddhist monastery in the 
same place. 3 Khalid was on such intimate terms with aUSaffah 
that his daughter was nursed by the wife of the former caliph, 
whose daughter was likewise nursed by KMlid's wife/ Early 
under the 'Abbasid regime Khalid rose to the headship of the 
department of finance (diwdn al-khardj). In 765 he received the 
governorship of Tabaristan, where he crushed a dangerous up- 
rising. 5 In his old age he distinguished himself at the capture of 
a Byzantine fortress. 6 Though not actually a vizir, 7 a minister in 
the later sense of the term, this official of Persian origin seems 
to have acted on various occasions as counsellor for the caliph 
and became the founder of an illustrious family of vizirs 

On October 7, 775, al-Mansur died near Makkah while on a 
pilgrimage. He was over sixty years of age. One hundred graves 
were dug for him near the Holy City, but he was secretly interred 
in another which no enemy might find and desecrate, 8 He was a 

1 Tab**"* vol iu, p. 371. * Cf ibn-Khalhk5n, vol, i, p 200. 

\ l»tre uatir for al~H*mdani is probablv used in same sense as m sur* 20 * 30. 

* Ibn al Faqlh, pp 522 4, lab-in, vol n, p. 1181; Yaqut vol jv, p SlS. 
4 Taban, vol 11, p 840 * Ibn*al Taqlh, p 314. 

* Taban, vol. m, p 497. 

7 Cf. Fakhrt t pp 206, 211. Mas'Qdx, Tanblh t p. 340. 

* Ibn al-Athir, vol. M, p. $3, 



slender, tall man, dark of complexion and thin-bearded* 1 Austere 
in nature and stern in manner, he stands in marked contrast to 
the type represented by his successors. But his policies continued 
for many generations to guide those who came after him just as 
those of Mu'awiyah had guided the Umayyads. 

To Khalid's son Yahya, al-Mansur's successor, al-Mahdi 
(775-85), entrusted the education of his son Harun. When Harun, 
following the brief reign of his brother al-Hadi (785-6), became 
caliph he appointed the Barmakid, whom he still respectfully 
called "father", as vizir with unrestricted power, Yahya, who 
died in 805, and his two sons al-Fadl and Ja'far practically ruled 
the empire from 786 to 803.* 

These Barmakids had their palaces in eastern Baghdad, 
where they lived in grand style. Here Ja'far's palace, al~Ja*fari, 
became the nucleus of a large group of magnificent residences 
later occupied by al-Ma'mun and transformed into the Caliphal 
Palace (dtir al-khilafah). The buildings stood by the Tigris with 
spacious gardens behind enclosing many minor structures within 
their precincts. Fabulous fortunes were amassed by the members 
of the Barmakid family. Even what they saw fit to bestow on 
their clients, panegyrists and partisans was enough to make such 
proteges wealthy. Their generosity was proverbial. Even today 
in all the Arabic-speaking lands the word bartnaki is used as a 
synonym of generous, and "as munificent as Ja'far" 3 is a simile 
that is everywhere well understood. 

A number of canals, 4 mosques and other public works owe 
their existence to the initiative and munificence of the Bar- 
makids Ai-Fadl is credited with being the first in Islam to 
introduce the use of lamps in the mosques during the month of 
Ramadan. Ja'far acquired great fame for eloquence, literary 
ability and penmanship. 5 Chiefly because of him Arab historians 
regard the Barmakids as the founders of the class designated 
"people of the pen" (aid al-gala?n). But he was more than a man 
of letters. He was a leader of fashion, and the long neck which 
he possessed is said to have been responsible for the introduction 
of the custom of wearing high collars,* Ja'far's intimacy with the 

* Tabari, vol, m, p 391 p ibn-al AthFr, vol vi, p 14, Mas'udi, Tattblh, p 341. 

» Ya. qftbl, vol. 11, p 520 * Consult ibn-KhalliUn, vol. i, pp. 185 uq. 

\ Sfe Taban, vol m t p 645, J}. 18-19, Baladhun. p 363. 

* Tabari, %oI \\ y p ^43, Mas'Cdi, vol. vi, p. 361, 

* J&hir, ft*iv£n> vol p. 201. 


Caliph Harun was not pleasing to his father, Yahya, as it was 
suspiciously immoral* 1 

The time at last came for the caliph to rid himself of this 
Persian tutelage. The Shf ite Bamiakids were getting too power- 
ful for the strong-willed Harun (786-809), in whose caliphal 
firmament there could not be two suns. First the thirty-seven- 
year-old Ja'far was slain in 803; his severed head was impaled 
on one bridge of Baghdad and the two halves of his body on the 
other two bridges. 2 The usual reason given by historians is that 
the caliph had allowed him, as a boon companion, to marry in 
name only his favourite sister, al-*Abbasah, but discovered later 
while on a holy pilgrimage that she had secretly given birth to a 
son whom she had concealed in Makkah. 8 The aged Yahya, 
together with his distinguished son al-Fadl and his other two 
sons, were all apprehended and cast into prison. Both Yahya 
and al-Fadl died in confinement. Ail the property of the family, 
said to have amounted to 30,676,000 (dinars) in cash exclusive 
of farms, palaces and furniture, was confiscated.* Thus the 
celebrated house founded by KMlid al-Barmaki fell, never to 
rise again. 

1 Jabari, vol. iu, pp. 674-6. 

* 'Jqd, vol. iii, p. 28; Jakari, vol. iii, p. 6$o. 

* Tabari, vol iii, pp. 676-7; Mas'ttdi, vol. vj, pp. 387-94: Fahkri, p. 28S. Cf. ibn* 
Khaldun vol. iii, pp. 223-4: Kitab a}-CIyun t pt. 3, pp. 306*8. 

* *fqd f vol. iii, p. 28. 




t. Al-Saffa^ (750) Al-Man$tlr (754) 

3, Al-Mahdi (775) 

4. Al-ffidi (785) 5. Al-Roshld (786) 

& Al-Amfn (S09) 7. Al-Ma'mun (813) 8. Al-Mu*ta$im (833) 

9. Al-Wathiq (842) 10. Al-Mutawakkil (847) 

THE 'Abbasid dynasty, like others in Moslem history, attained 
its most brilliant period of political and intellectual life soon after 
its establishment. The Baghdad caliphate founded by al-Saffah 
and al-Mansur reached its prime in the period between the reigns 
of the third caliph, ai-Mahdi, and the ninth, al-Wathiq, more 
particularly in the days of Harun al-Rashid and his son al- 
Ma'mun. It was chiefly because of these two luminous caliphs 
that the * Abbasid dynasty acquired a halo in popular imagina- 
tion and became the most celebrated in the history of Islam. The 
dictum quoted by the anthologist al-Tha* alibi 1 (f 1038) that of 
the 'Abbasid caliphs 41 the opener" was al-Mansur, "the middler'* 
was al-Ma*mun and "the closer" was al-Mu*tadid (892-902) 
is therefore not far from the historical truth. After al- Wathiq 
the state starts on its downward course until under the Caliph 
al-Musta*sim, the thirty-seventh of the line, it meets its final 
destruction at the hands of the Mongols in 1258. An idea of the 
degree of power and glory and progress attained by the 'Abbasid 
caliphate at its highest and best may be gained from a scrutiny 
of its foreign relations, a study of court and aristocratic life in 

j ~ 1 Ivttfsf Mfctdnf, ed P. de Jong (Lcjden, 1867), p. 71. 
j 297 




its capital, Baghdad, and a survey of the unparalleled intellectual 
awakening that culminated under the patronage of al-Ma'mun. 

The ninth century opened with two imperial names standing 
supreme in world affairs: Charlemagne in the West and Harun 
al-Rashid in the East. Of the two Harun was undoubtedly the 
more powerful and represented the higher culture. The mutual 
friendly relations into which these two contemporaries entered 
were, of course, prompted by self-interest; Charlemagne culti- 
vated Harun as a possible ally against hostile Byzantium and 
Harun desired to use Charlemagne against his rivals and deadly 
foes, the neighbouring Umayyads of Spain, who had succeeded 
in establishing a mighty and prosperous state. This reciprocity of 
cordial feelings found expression, according to Western writers, 
in the exchange of a number of embassies and presents. A 
Frankish author who knew Charlemagne personally and is some- 
times referred to as his secretary relates that the envoys of the 
great king of the West returned home with rich gifts from "the 
king of Persia, Aaron", which included fabrics, aromatics and 
an elephant. 1 This account is based on the Annates royalest 
which further speaks of an intricate clock as among the gifts from 
Baghdad. But the account of the pipe organ sent to Charlemagne 
by Harun, like many other charming bits of history, is fictitious. 
Its story isapparentlybased on a mistranslation of the termciepsy* 
dra in the sources, which in reality meant a device for measuring 
time by water and referred to the clock presented. Likewise the 
assertion that the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were 
delivered by Harun's consent to Charlemagne has been dis- 
credited. 3 

The strange thing about this exchange of embassies and gifts, 
said to have taken place between 797 and 806, is the utter silence 
of Moslem authors regarding it. While reference is made to 
various other diplomatic exchanges and courtesies, none is made 
to this. The t Igd t cites several cases of correspondence between 
Umayyad caliphs and Byzantine emperors and speaks of a 
delegation from "the king of India 1 ' which brought Harun 

1 £ginhard, Vie de Charlemagne^ ed. and tr. L. Hnlphen (Paris, 1923). P- 47« 

* "Ann ales regni Franco rum", ed. G. H. Pertzii and F. Kurze in Scnplcres rerum 
Cermamcarum t vol. 43 (Hanover, 1S05), PP* n 4> I2 3*4- 

* See below, pp. 507, 635-6. Cf. Louis Brevier in Chambre de Commerce de 
Marseille. Congres jrangats de Syne. Seances el iravaux, fasc. 2 (1919)* PP* 15*39» 

* Vol. j, pp. 197-8. 


valuable presents and was received with great pon^p. Another 
source 1 states that Harun's son al-Ma'mun received especially 
rich gift from his contemporary "the king of th* Romans", 
possibly Michael II. 

Thcmore-than-century-old struggle between the cy iphate and 
the Byzantine empire was resumed by the third caliph, al- 
Mahdi (77$-8$)* but engagements were of les s frequency 
and success. The internal conflicts that convulsed th^ Arab state 
and resulted in the transference of the capital to distant Baghdad 
had made it possible for Constantine V (741-75) to push the 
imperial border farther east along the entire boundary Q f Asia 
Minor and Armenia. 2 The Moslem line of frontier Wtifications 
{thtghiir) extending from Syria to Armenia retreated as the 
Byzantine line opposite advanced. 

Al-Mahdi, the first 'Abbasid caliph to resume the "holy war" 
against the Byzantines, initiated a brilliant and successful attack 
against the enemy capital itself. Harun, his young so n future 
successor, commanded the expedition. In 782 3 the Arab forces 
readied 1 the Bosporus/ if not ^Tonstanilnopib n$m¥; anrf frene, 
who held the regency m the name of her son Constantine VI, 
was forced to sue for peace and conclude a singularly humiliating 
treaty involving the payment of a tribute of 70,00*) to 90,000 
dinars in semi-annual instalments. 5 It was in the cc )urse Q f this 
campaign that Harun so distinguished himself that his father 
gave him the honorific title al-Rashfd (follower of the right path) 
and designated him the second heir apparent to the throne, 
after his elder brother Musa al-Hadi. 

This proved the last time that a hostile Arab army stood before 
the walls of the proud capital. In all there were *our distinct 
expeditions which reached Byzantium; the first thr*» e were sent 
under the Umayyads by Mu'Swiyah and by Sulayn^n. 6 Of the 
four only two involved real sieges of the city; or\ e by Yazid 
(49/669) and the other by Maslamah (98/716). Turkish tradition, 

1 Kutufci, J?awd£, vol. i, p. 307, 11. 12-13. 

* A. A. V&jahcv, History of the By tanttnr Empire, fcr. S. Ragozin, vo \ r { (Madison 
t§7&) f p. Charles Djtehl, History of tA* By sen tire Empire t \x Q B Jves 
(Princeton, 5925), p. 55* 
" * * &&t> til-lfyur. t pt 3, p. ^78, dates the expedition 163 {A.E, ^\ y a « q fibi 
(vol, li Y pp. 47$, 4$6) 164 and Taban {vol. iu, pp. 503-4) 165. H 
\* Theopharus, who wrote in Si 3, says (p. 456) that Harun adv anocd ^ ftr ^ 
. Chxysopolw, on the site of modem Scutari. 

> I l>t>a«* vol. Hi, p. 504* » Sec ato\ c, ^ 20o s<$ 



however, makes the sieges seven to nine in number, of which 
two are ascribed to Harun. In the Arabian Nights and other 
Arabic romances of chivalry the Moslem expeditions against 
Constantinople form the subject of themes highly coloured and 
developed during the period of the Crusades. 

Irene (797-802), who had seized the throne and become "the 
first instance in Byzantine history of a woman who ruled with full 
authority of supreme power", 1 was succeeded by Nicephorus P 
(802-1 1 ), who repudiated the terms of the treaty contracted by the 
empress and even demanded from the caliph, now al-Rashld, 
the return of the tribute already paid. Inflamed with rage, al- 
RashTd called for pen and ink and wrote on the back of the 
scornful epistle: 

In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate, 

From Harun, the commander of the believers, to Nicephorus, the 

dog of a Roman. 

V erily I have read thy letter, O son of an infidel mother. As for the 

answer it shall be for thine eye to see, not for thine ear to hear. Salam * 

True to his word, Harun started at once a series of campaigns 
directed from his favourite town of residence, al-Raqqah, situated 
beside the Euphrates and commanding the Syrian frontier. 
These expeditions ravaged Asia Minor and culminated in the 
capture of Heraclea (An Hiraqlah) and Tyana (al-Tuwanah) in 
806 and the imposition, in addition to the tribute, of an igno- 
minious tax on the emperor himself and on each member of his 
household.* This event and date in the reign of Harun al- 
Rashld maybe taken as marking the topmost point ever readied 
by 'Abbasid power. 

After 806 there was only one serious attempt at securing a 
footing beyond the Taurus, and that by al-Mu*tasim in 838. 
Though al-Mu'tasim's huge army, "equipped as no caliph's 
army before had ever been equipped", 5 penetrated into the heart 

1 VasiHcr, vol. i, p. 2S7. 

1 Niqfflr of Arabic sources. He was of Arab origin; possibly a descendant of 
Jabalah the Ghassanid, Tabari, vol. iii, p. 695; Michel le Syricn, Chronicle, ed 
J.«B Chabotj vol. iii (Pans, 1905), p. re. Irene, whom he dethroned, was the lost of 
the Isaurian or S>rhn dynasty (717-502) founded by Leo III (717-41), who xwth his 
successors headed the iconodistic movement which bears traces of Moslem influ- 
ence Iheopnanis, p. 405, calls Leo "the Saracen-minded". 

* Taban, \ol. 111, p 606 

* ftfd. pp. 606, 709 to, Ya'qubi, vol. ii, p. 519, 1. 14, p. 523, 1. 2; DEaawari, 
pp. 3*6-7, Mas'udu vol. ii, pp. 337*52* 

* Tabari, \ol. m, p. 1236. 


ofthe land of the Romans" and temporarily occupied Amorium 
(Amoricm, Ar. r Ammuriyah), the birthplace of the founder of the 
then ruling dynasty, 1 the attempt on the whole was unsuccessful. 
The Arab forces expected to march upon Constantinople but 
returned on the receipt of alarming reports of a military con- 
spiracy at home. The reigning emperor, Theophilus (829-42), so 
feared the loss of his capital that he dispatched envoys to Venice, 
to the Frankish king and to the Umayyad court in Spain 
soliciting aid. Theophilus had once before been threatened from 
the east when ai-Ma*mun, son of Harun, took the field in person 
but met his death (833) near Tarsus. After al-Mu*tasim no 
serious offensive on the Arab side was ever undertaken. Those 
of his successors who sent armies across the border aimed at 
plunder rather than conquest. In no case did the collision assume 
significance or occur deep in the land. Yet throughout the ninth 
century the hostile contacts, though of minor importance, 
occurred with almost annualregularity on the eastern border-line. 
One Arab geographer 3 informs us that it was the practice then 
to make tliree raids each year: one in winter covering the end of 
February and the beginning of March, another in spring lasting 
thirty days from May 10, and a third in summer extending over a 
period of sixty days from July 10. Such raids served to keep the 
military forces in good trim and netted profitable spoils. But the 
original Arabian national motive, and to a large extent the re- 
ligious impulse which figured in the early campaigns of Islam, 
had now become far less important factors. The internal weaken- 
ing of the Moslem state was beginning to tell in its foreign rela- 
tions. One of the petty dynasties, the Hamdanid in Aleppo, which 
arose about the middle of the tenth century at the expense of 
the caliphate, did take up the cudgels against Byzantium. But of 
that we shall hear later. 

History and legend unite in placing the most brilliant period Th< 
of Baghdad during the caliphate of Harun al-Rashld (yBS-dog). £ * 
Though less than half a century old, Baghdad had by that 
.time grown from nothingness to a world centre of prodigious 
wealth and international significance, standing alone as the 
rival of Byzantium. Its splendour kept pace with the pros- 
perity of the empire of which it was the capital. It was then 

1 Michel Ic Syricn, vol. iii, p« $T2. 
1 Qudaraah, JCiM al-Kharaj, cd. de Goeje (Leyden, 1889), p. 259. 


that Baghdad became "a city with no peer throughout the whole 
world". 1 

The royal palace with its many annexes for harems, eunuchs 
and special functionaries occupied one-third of the Round City. 
Particularly impressive was its audience chamber with its rugs, 
curtains and cushions, the best the Orient could produce. The 
caliph's cousin-wife, Zubaydah, who in tradition shares with her 
husband the halo of glory and distinction bestowed by later 
generations, would tolerate at her table no vessels not made of 
gold or silver and studded with gems. She set the fashion for the 
smart set and was the first to ornament her shoes with precious 
stones. 2 In one holy pilgrimage she is reported to have spent 
three million dinars, which included the expense of supplying 
Makkah with water from a spring twenty-five miles away. 8 

Zubaydah had a rival in the beauteous *Ulayyah, daughter 
of al-Mahdi and haif-sister of Harun, who to cover a blemish on 
her forehead devised a fillet set with jewels which, as the fillet 
a la 'Ulayyah, was soon adopted by the world of fashion as the 
ornament of the day.* 

Especially on ceremonial occasions, such as the installation of 
the caliph, weddings, pilgrimages and receptions for foreign 
envoys, did the courtly wealth and magnificence find its fullest 
display. The marriage ceremony of the Caliph al-Ma'mun to 
the eighteen-year-old Buran, 5 daughter of his vizir, al-#asan 
ibn-Sahl, was celebrated in 825 with such fabulous expenditure 
of money that it has lived in Arabic literature as one of the un- 
forgettable extravaganzas of the age. At the nuptials a thousand 
pearls of unique size, we are told, were showered from a gold 
tray upon the couple who sat on a golden mat studded with 
pearls and sapphires. A two-hundred-rotl candle of ambergris 
turned the night into day. Balls of musk, each containing a ticket 
naming an estate or a slave or some such gift, were showered 
on the royal princes and dignitaries. 6 In 917 the Caliph al- 
Muqtadir received in his palace with great ceremony and pomp 
the envoys of the young Constantino VII, whose mission evidently 

1 Khatib, vol. i f p. 119. = Mas'udi, vol viii, pp. 298-9. 

* Cf lbn-Khalhkan, vol. i, p. 337; Burckhardt, Travels, vol. i, p. 196. 

* Ashantt vol. Sx, p. S3. 

* ^he v. as ten years old when betrothed to al*Ma*mun; ibn-Khalhkan, voi. i, p. 166. 
9 Tabari, vol. lit, pp. ioSr-4; Mas'udi, vol. vii, pp. 65*6; ibn-al-AthTr, vol. vi, 

p. 279; Tha'alibi, Lafa'tf, pp. 73-4; ibn-Khaldun, Muqcddamak* pp. 144-5, 



involved the exchange and ransom of prisoners. 1 The caliphal 
array included 160,000 cavalry and footmen, 7000 black and 
white eunuchs and 700 chamberlains. In the parade a hundred 
lions marched, and in the caliphal palace hung 38,000 curtains, 
of which 12,500 were gilded, besides 22,000 rugs. The envoys 
were so struck with awe and admiration that they first mistook 
the chamberlain's office and then the vizir's for the royal audience 
chamber. Especially impressed were they with the Hall of the 
Tree {ddr al-shajarah) which housed an artificial tree of gold 
and silver weighing 500,000 drams, in the branches of which 
were lodged birds of the same precious metals so constructed 
that they chirped by automatic devices. In the garden they 
marvelled at the artificially dwarfed palm trees which by skilled 
cultivation yielded dates of rare varieties. 2 

Like a magnet the princely munificence of Harun, the beau 
idial of Islamic kingship, and of his immediate successors 
attracted to the capital poets, wits, musicians, singers, dancers, 
trainers of fighting dogs and cocks and others who could amuse, 
interest or entertain. 3 Ibrahim al-Mawsili, Siyat and ibn-Jamf 
led the roster of musician-singers. The libertine poet abu-Nuwas, 
the boon companion of al-Rashid and his comrade on many a 
nocturnal adventure, has depicted for us in unforgettable terms 
the colourful court life of this period of glory. The pages of a/- 
Aghani abound with illustrative anecdotes whose nucleus of 
truth is not hard to discern. According to one story the Caliph 
al-Amm (809-13) one evening bestowed on his uncle Ibrahim 
ibn-al-Mahdi, a professional singer, the sum of 300,000 dinars for 
chanting a few verses of abu-Nuwas\ This raised the gratuities 
thus far received by Ibrahim from the caliph to 20,000,000 
dirhams. 4 Al-Amln, of whom ibn-al-Athlr 5 found nothing praise- 
worthy to record, had a number of special barges shaped like 
animals built for his parties on the Tigris. One of these vessels 
looked like a dolphin, another like a lion, a third like an eagle; 
the cost of one was 3,000,000 dirhams. 6 We read in the Aghani 1 
of a picturesque all-night ballet conducted under the Caliph 
al-Amln's personal direction in which a large number of 

1 Mas'Gdi, Tcmblk % p. 193, 

* IChatrb, vol. i, pp. roo-105; abu*aJ-Kda\ vol ii\ p. 73; Yaqut, vol. ii, pp. 520-21. 
^ * Baladhuri, Anttib el'Askr£f t ed* Max Achlocssingcr, \ol. iv B (Jerusalem, 

1 t£35)tP* *• * Agkam, vol. ix t p. 71. See below, p. 321. * Vol. \i, p. 207. 

* ffid. p. 2065 Tabari, vol* iii, pp. 951-3* 7 Vol. xvi % pp. 138-9. 



beautiful girl dancers performed in rhythmic unison to the soft 
harmony of music and were joined in their singing by all those 
who attended. Al-Mas'udi 1 relates that on the occasion of a 
dinner given by Ibrahim in honour of his brother al-Rash!d, the 
caliph was served with a dish of fish in which the slices looked 
exceedingly small. In explanation the host remarked that the 
slices were fishes' tongues, and the waiter added that the cost of 
the hundred and fifty tongues in the dish was over a thousand 
dirhams. Even when stripped of the adventitious glow cast by 
Oriental romance and fancy, enough of the splendour of court 
life in Baghdad remains to arouse our astonishment 

Next to the royal master in high and luxurious living came 
the members of the 'Abbasid family, the vizirs, officials, function- 
aries and other satellites of the imperial household. Members of 
the Hashimite tribe, to which the *Abbasids belonged, received 
large regular stipends from the state treasury until the practice 
was discontinued by al-Mu*tasim (833-42).* Al-Rashid's mother, 
al-Khayzuran, is said to have had an income of 160,000,000 
dirhams. 3 A certain Muhammad ibn-Sulayman, whose property 
was confiscated on his death by al-Rashld, left 50,000,000 
dirhams in cash and a daily income of 100,000 dirhams from his 
real estate.* The scale on which the Barmakids lived could not 
have been much lower than that of the caliphal household itself. 
As for the humdrum life of the ordinary citizen in Baghdad and 
the feelings that surged in the breast of the common man, we 
find little in the sources with the possible exception of the 
poetical works of the ascetic abu-al-*Atahiyah. 

When al-Ma'mun in 819, after several years of civil war with 
his elder brother al-Amin (who had been designated to the sue- } 
cess ors hip by their father) and with his uncle Ibrahim ibn-al- 
Mahdi, who also claimed the throne, made his victorious entry 
into Baghdad a large part of the city lay in ruins. We hear no 
more of the Round City, As caliph, al-Ma*mun took up his abode in 
the Ja'fari palace, originally built for Ja'far al-Barmaki ontheeast 
side of the river. But it was not long before the town rose again v 
to eminence as a commercial and intellectual centre. The natural 
successor to a long line of distinguished metropolitan towns 
which flourished in the Tigris-Euphrates valley beginning with 

1 Vol vi, pp 349 50 * Cf. Tha'alibi, La&tf % p. l6. 

* Mas'udi, vol. vi, p 2S9 * Ibid, 


Ur and Babylon and ending with Ctesiphon, the *Abbasid 
capital could not be easily suppressed. Its advantageous position 

-as a shipping centre made all parts of the then charted world 
accessible to it. Along its miles of wharves lay hundreds of 
vessels, including ships of war and pleasure craft and varying 
from Chinese junks to native rafts of inflated sheepskins, not 
unlike those of our present day, which were floated down from 
al-Mawsil. Into the bazaars of the city came porcelain, silk and 
musk from China; spices, minerals and dyes from India and the 

r Malay Archipelago; rubies, lapis lazuli, fabrics and slaves from 
the lands of the Turks in Central Asia; honey, wax, furs and 
white slaves from Scandinavia and Russia; ivory, gold dust and 
black slaves from eastern Africa. Chinese wares had a special 

, bazaar devoted to their sale. The provinces of the empire itself 
sent by caravan or sea their domestic products: rice, grain and 
linen from Egypt; glass, metal ware and fruits from Syria; brocade, 
pearls and weapons from Arabia; silks, perfumes and vegetables 
from Persia. 1 Communication between the east and west sides 
of the city was assured by three main pontoon bridges like the 
Baghdad bridges of today. Al-Khatib* devotes a section of his 
history to the bridges of Baghdad and another to its canals 
(flnhdr). From Baghdad and other export centres Arab merchants 
shipped to the Far East, Europe and Africa fabrics, jewellery, 
metal mirrors, glass beads, spices, etc. 3 The hoards of Arab coins 

- recently found in places as far north as Russia, Finland, 4 Sweden 
and Germany testify to the world-wide commercial activity of 
the Moslems of this and the later period. The adventures of 
Sindbad the Sailor, which form one of the best-known tales in 
The Thousand and One Nights, have long been recognized as 
based upon actual reports of voyages made by Moslem merchants. 

Merchants played a leading part in the Baghdad community* 
Members of each craft and trade had their shops in the same 
market (stlq)? as in the present day. The monotony of street life 
was interrupted from time to time by the occasional passage 
of a t wedding or circumcision procession. Professional men — 
physicians, lawyers, teachers, writers and the like — began to 
occupy a conspicuous place under the patronage of al-Ma'mun. 

1 Consult Lc Strange, Eastern Caliphate, passim See below, pp. 313, 351. 

* Vql. \, pp. in -17. * See below, pp. 345 

* lhe museum at Helsinki contains many such coins. 
4 Ya'qSbi, JBuldan, p. 246. 


By the time ai-N adim composed (988) bis monumental al^Fihriz^ 
a sort of catalogue of existing Arabic works, there were abundant 
manuscripts dealing even"" with such subjects as hypnotism, 
jugglery, sword-swallowing and glass-chewing. 1 Ibn-Khallikan* 
has fortunately left us a cross section of the daily routine of a 
member of the learned fraternity, ftunayn ibn-Ishaq, which 
indicates that scholarship had a considerable market value in 
those days. We arc first shown y unayn, after his daily ride, at 
the public bath, where attendants poured water over him. On 
emerging he put on a lounging-robe, sipped a drink, ate a biscuit 
and lay down, sometimes falling asleep. The siesta over, he 
burned perfume to fumigate his person and ordered a dinner 
which generally consisted of soup, fattened chicken and bread. 
Then he resumed his sleep and on waking drank four rotls of 
old wine, to which he added quinces and Syrian apples if he felt 
the desire for fresh fruits. < 
imeJiect- The victory of Moslem arms under ai-Mahdi and al-Rashid 
awakening ovcr tne inveterate Byzantine enemy undoubtedly shed its lustre 
on this period, the luxurious scale of living made this period 
popular in history and in fiction, but what has rendered this age 
especially illustrious in world annals is the fact that it witnessed 
the most momentous intellectual awakening in the history of Islam 
and one of the most significant in the whole history of thought 
and culture. The awakening was due in a large measure to foreign 
influences, partly Indo-Persian and Syrian but mainly Hellenic, 
and was marked by translations into Arabic from Persian, Sans- 
krit, Syriac and Greek. Starting with very little science, philo- 
sophy or literature of his own, the Arabian Moslem, who brought 
with him from the desert a keen sense of intellectual curiosity, a 
voracious appetite for learning and many latent faculties, soon 
became, as we have learned before, the beneficiary and heir of 
the older and more cultured peoples whom he conquered or 
encountered. As in Syria he adopted the already existing 
Aramaic civilization, itself influenced by the later Greek, so did 
he in al-'Iraq adopt the same civilization influenced by the 
Persian. In three-quarters of a century after the establishment of 
Baghdad the Arabic-reading world was in possession of the chief 
philosophical works of Aristotle, of the leading Neo-Platonic com- 
mentators, and of most of the medical writings of Galen, as well 
1 P. 312* • VoLi,p. 29S. 



as of Persian and Indian scientific works. 1 In only a few decades 
Arab scholars assimilated what had taken the Greeks centuries 
to develop. In absorbing the main features of both Hellenic and 
Persian cultures Islam, to be sure, lost most of its o\vn original 
character, which breathed the spirit of the desert and bore the 
stamp of Arabian nationalism, but it thereby took an important 
place in the medieval cultural unit which linked southern Europe 
with the Near East. This culture, it should be remembered, was 
fed by a single stream, a stream with sources in ancient Egypt, 
Babylonia, Phoenicia and Judaea, all flowing to Greece and 
now returning to the East in the form of Hellenism* We shall 
later see how this same stream was re-diverted into Europe by 
the Arabs in Spain and Sicily, whence it helped create the 
Renaissance of Europe. 

India acted as an early source of inspiration, especially in I 
wisdom literature and mathematics. About A.H. 154 (771) an 
Indian traveller introduced into Baghdad a treatise on astronomy, 
a Siddkdnta (Ar. Sindhind), which by order of al-Mansur was 
translated by Muhammad ibn-Ibrahlm al-Fazari (f between 
796 and 806), who subsequently became the first astronomer in 
Islam. 2 The stars had of course interested the Arabians since 
desert days, but no scientific study of them was undertaken until 
this time. Islam added its impetus to the study of astronomy as a 
means for fixing the direction in which prayer should be con- 
ducted Ka'bah-ward. The famous al-Khwarizmi (f ca. 850) 
based his widely known astronomical tables (sif) on al-FazarPs 
work and syncretized the Indian and Greek systems of astro- 
nomy, at the same time adding his own contribution. Among 
other translations of astronomical works at this period were those 
from Persian into Arabic by al-Fadl ibn-Nawbakht 8 (f ca. 
815), the chief librarian of al-Rashld. 4 

This same Indian traveller had also brought a treatise on 
mathematics by means of which the numerals called in Europe 

^ 1 Since the latter part of the nineteenth century the modern Arab Orient has been 
passing through a similar period of translation, mainly from French and English 

* §a*id ibn-A^mad {al-Q5di al-Andalusi), fchaqdi al-Unam, e<L L. Cheikho 
(BcirOt, 1912), pp. 49-50; Yaout, Udab&\ vol. vi, p. 26S; Mas'tidi/voL viii, on 

* PersL nsKbakht, good luck. Many members of this family distinguished therr- 
selve* in the science of the stars. Tabari, voL iii, pp. 31?, 3x8 (where tl ie na me occur* 
4s IxibaUht or ftaybakht), 1364. 

* Fibril p 274, 


Arabic and by the Arabs Indian {Hindi) entered the Moslem 
world. 1 Later, in the ninth century, the Indians made another 
important contribution to Arabic mathematical science, the 
decimal system. 

Except in the arts and belles-lettres Persia did not have much 
that was original to contribute. The esthetic temperament of its 
Iranian population was a sorely needed element in the cultural 
life of the Semitic Arabians. Next to the artistic, the literary — 
rather than the scientific or philosophical — was the influence 
most clearly felt from Persia. The earliest literary work in Arabic 
that has come down to us is Kalilah wa^Dimnah (fables of 
Bidpai), a translation from Pahlawi (Middle Persian) which was 
itself a rendition from Sanskrit. The original work was brought 
to Persia from India, together with the game of chess, in the 
reign of Anusharwan (531-78). What gives the Arabic version 
special significance is the fact that the Persian was lost, as was 
the Sanskrit original, though the material in an expanded form 
can still be found in the Panchatanira* The Arabic version there* 
fore became the basis of ail existing translations into some forty 
languages, including, besides European tongues, Hebrew, 
Turkish, Ethiopic and Malay, Even Icelandic has a translation. 
This book, intended to instruct princes in the laws of polity by 
means of animal fables, was done into Arabic by ibn-al-Muqaffa*, 2 
a Zoroastrian convert to Islam whose suspect orthodoxy brought 
about his death by fire ca, 757. 

Ibn-al-MuqanV's translation was in itself a stylistic work of 
art, and ever since the 'Abbasid age Arabic prose has borne the 
impress of Persian style in its extravagant elegance, colourful 
imagery and flowery expression. The ancient Arabic style with 
its virile, pointed and terse form of expression was replaced to a 
large extent by the polished and affected diction of the Sasanid 
period. Such Arabic literary works as al-Agkani x al-Iqd al- 
Farid and al-Turtushi's Strdj al-Muliik* teem with references 
to earlier Indo-Pcrsian sources, especially when dealing with 
etiquette, wisdom, polity and history. Arabic historiography, as 
we shall see, was modelled after Persian patterns. 

1 See belo<ft , pp 573 seq 

1 For printed editions of Kalilah ua Dimnah see S> Wester de Sac/s (Paris, 1816), 
reprinted in Bulaq, 1249, Khahl aI-Y6«ji's 2nd ed (Beirut, 18SS), L. Cheikho's 
(Beirut, 1905) On ibn al-MuqaftV consult Fthrtst t p 118, lbn-Khalhkan, vol. 1, 
pp. 266-9. * » Published in Cairo, 1289, 1306, etc 


In 765 the Caliph al-Man$ur, afflicted with a stomach disease 
which had baffled his physicians, summoned from JuntJi-Shapur 1 
the dean of its hospital, the Nestorian Jurjis 2 (George) ibn* 
Bakhtlshu* (f ca. 771). Jundi-Shapur was noted for its academy 
of medicine and philosophy founded about 555 by the great 
Anusharwan. The science of the institution was ba S ed on the 
ancient Greek tradition, but the language of instruction was 
Aramaic, Jurjls soon won the confidence of the taliph and 
became the court physician, though he retained his Christian 
faith. Invited by the caliph to embrace Islam his reto r t was that 
he preferred the company of his fathers, be they in heaven ur m 
helL* Ibn-BakhtTshu' became in Baghdad the founder of a 
brilliant family which for six or seven generations, covering a 
period of two centuries and a half, with many ups ^ n d dowiii, 
exercised an almost continuous monopoly over the co^rt medical 
practice. Scientific lore in those days, like jewel lery-making and 
other forms of craftsmanship, was considered an exclusive family 
affair and transmitted from father to son. JurjTs 1 son Bakhtishu* 
(f €bi} was cAief pdysicran of tfte BsgAa'ad Aospjfef under 
al-Rashid. Bakhtishu°s son Jibril (Gabriel), who Successfully 
treated a favourite slave of al-Rashld for hysterical paralysis by 
pretending to disrobe her in public, was appointed the caliph's 
private physician in 805.* 

At the time of the Arab conquest of the Fertile Crescent the a 
intellectual legacy of Greece was unquestionably the most 
precious treasure at hand. Hellenism consequently became the 
most vital of all foreign influences in Arab life. Odessa (al- 
Ruha'), the principal centre of Christian Syrians; ttarran, thfc 
headquarters of the heathen Syrians who in and aftef the ninth 
century claimed to be Sabians (An Sabi'ah or Sabfun); * Antioch, 
one of the many ancient Greek colonies; Alexandria, the meeting- 
place of Occidental and Oriental philosophy; and the Jtumberless 
cloisters of Syria and Mesopotamia where not only ecclesiastical 

1 At JundaysabQr The city, founded by the SasTimd Shapur I, whe nce name 
which may mean M camp of Shapur", stood on the stte of the modern villi™ Shahabad 
In Kh&nstan, south-western Persia 

*.Cf. fthnrt, p 296, ibn al-'Ibri, pp 213-15 "Bakht", which Jbn^bi-Usaybi'ah 
(vol* 1, p 125) tikes for a Syriac word meaning "servant**, is for P a hlawi bdkkt 
"hath delivered", making the family name mean "Jesus hath delivered 

* Ibn-aVtbri, p 2is,eopied b> ibn-tbi U$aybah, \oL i, p. 125* 

* Ihn-aMbn, pp 226-7, Qifti, VP *34 # 5» 

* See bdow, p 357. 


but scientific and philosophic studies were cultivated, all served 
as centres radiating Hellenistic stimuli. The various raids into "the 
land of the Romans", particularly under Harun, resulted in the 
introduction, among other objects of booty, of Greek manu- 
scripts, chiefly from Amorium and Ancyra 1 (Ankara). A1- 
Ma'mun is credited with the dispatch of emissaries as far as 
Constantinople, to the Emperor Leo the Armenian himself, in 
quest of Greek works. Even al-Mansur is said to have received 
in response to his request from the Byzantine emperor a number 
of books, including Euclid* 2 But the Arabians knew no Greek 
and had at first to depend upon translations made by their 
subjects, Jewish, heathen and more particularly Nestorian 
Christian. These Syrian Nestorians, who translated first into 
Synac and then from Syriac into Arabic, thus became the 
strongest link between Hellenism and Islam and consequently 
the earliest Oriental purveyors of Greek culture to the world at 
large. Before Hellenism could find access to the Arab mind it 
had to pass through a Syriac version. 

The apogee of Greek influence was reached under al-Ma*mun. 
The rationalistic tendencies of this caliph and his espousal of the 
Mu*tazilite cause, which maintained that religious texts should 
agree with the judgments of reason, led him to seek justification 
for his position m the philosophical works of the Greeks. The 
way the Fthrisi* expresses it is that Aristotle appeared to him in 
a dream and assured him that there was no real difference 
between reason and religious law. In pursuance of his policy 
al-Ma'mun in 830 established in Baghdad his famous Bayt al- 
Hikmah (house of wisdom), a combination library, academy 
and translation bureau which in many respects proved the most 
important educational institution since the foundation of the 
Alexandrian Museum in the first half of the third century B.C. 
Down to this time sporadic translation work had been done 
independently by Christians, Jews and recent converts to Islam. 
Beginning with al-Ma'mun and continuing under his immediate 
successors the work was centred mainly in the newly founded 
academy. The 'Abbastd era of translation lasted about a century 
after 750 Since most of the translators were Aramaic-speakmg 
many of the Greek works were first done into Aramaic (Syriac) 

1 Ar Anqirah, Ya'qubi, vol i, p 4S0 
3 Ibn-Khaldun, Muqaddamahi p 401 * P. 243. 


befbue their rendition into Arabic. In the case of many difficult 
passages in the original the translation was made word by word, 
and where no Arabic equivalent was found or known the Greek 
term was simply transliterated with some adaptation* 1 

Xho translators into Arabic did not interest themselves in 
Greek productions of the literary type. No close contact was 
therefore established between the Arab mind and Greek drama, 
Greek poetry and Greek history. In that field Persian influence 
remained paramount, Homer's Iliad was partially translated into 
Syriac by Thawafll (Thcophilus) ibn-Tuma of al-Ruha 3 (f 785),* 
the Maronite astrologer of al-Mahdi, but evidently it was not 
carried through the second step into Arabic as in other 
cases. It was first Greek medicine as represented by Galen 
(f ca. AJ>. 200) and Paul of Aegina (fi. ca. A.B. 650), 3 Greek 
mathematics and allied sciences for which Euclid (fl. ca. 300 B.C.) 
and Ptolemy (fi. first half of second Christian century) stood, 
Greek philosophy as originated by Plato and Aristotle and 
expounded by later Neo-PIatonists, that served as the starting- 
point of this voyage of intellectual discovery* 

One of the pioneer translators from Greek was abu-Yahya 
ibn-al-Batrlq (f between 796 and 806), who is credited with 
having translated for al-Mansur the major works of Galen and 
Hippocrates (fl. ca. 436 B.C.) and for another patron Ptolemy's 
Quadtipartitum* The Elements of Euclid and the Atmagest t 
Arabic al-Majzstt or al-Mijisii (originally from Gr. megisti^ 
greatest), the great astronomical work of Ptolemy, 5 may have also 
been translated about the same time if a report in al-Mas'udi* 
is correct. But evidently all these early translations were not 
properly done and had to be revised or remade under al-Rashld 
and al-Ma^mun. Another early translator was the Syrian Christian 
Yulianna (Yafcya) ibn-Masawayh 7 (f 857), a pupil of Jibril 

% Hence sudi Arabic words as aritkma^qt (arithmetic), j&mairfya (geometry)* 
fighrdfijith (geography), musigi (music), fahefak (philosophy), asfuriab (astrolabe), 
aiklr (ether), iksir (elixir), tbrze (pure gold), maghnatis (magnet), urghun (organ). 
Consult abu**AbdulUh al-Khwarizmi, Afafdiifr ai-'UIum, ed. G. van Vlotcn 
(Lcyden, 1S95), index; Fihrisi, passim; JRasati Ikhw&n al-$afd\ed. IChayr-al-Dln 
al-£mkU (Cairo, ig^) t passin. 

4 lbn*al**Xbri> pp. 41^ 1120. * Ibid. p. 176. 

* &hrist t p. 273. * Ya'qubi, vol. i, pp. 150*51. 

* Vol. vlii, p. 291. Cf. below, pp. 3*4*1$. 

**XAtin MesuS (Mesua), or Mesue* Major {the Elder) to distinguish him from 
<Mesue the YoungeT (Musawayh <ii»M5ridini), the Jacobite physician \vho flourished 
«t flic court of the Fatirnid Caliph al-tlaUm in Cairo and died in 1015. 


ibn-Bakhtishu' and a teacher of Hunayn ibn-Ishaq, who is said 
to have translated for al-Rashld certain manuscripts, mainly 
medical, which the caliph had brought back from Ancyra and 
Amorium. 1 Yuhanna served also under the successors of al- 
RashTd. Once when offended by a court favourite his retort was, 
"If the folly wherewith thou art afflicted were converted into 
intelligence and divided amongst a hundred beetles, each would 
then become more intelligent than Aristotle!" 2 
Htmayn The sheikh of the translators, as the Arabs express it, was 
ibn-isb&q y unayn ibn-Ishaq (Joannitius, 809-73), one of the greatest 
scholars and noblest characters of the age. Hunayn was an 
'Ibadi, i.e. a Nestorian Christian from al-Hlrah, and as a youth 
acted as dispenser to the physician ibn-Masawayh. Taking as a 
challenge a chiding remark by the master that the people of 
al-IJirah had no business with medicine and that he had better 
go and change money in the bazaar, 3 the lad left the service of 
ibn -Mas away h in tears, but intent upon the study of Greek. He 
was then sent by the three scholarly sons of Musa ibn-Shakir, 
who were carrying on independent research work, into various 
Greek-speaking lands in quest of manuscripts, and later entered 
the service of Jibril ibn-Bakhtfshu*, physician-in-ordinary to al- 
Ma'mun. Subsequently this caliph appointed rjunayn super- 
intendent of his library-academy, and in this capacity IJunayn 
had charge of all the scientific translation work, in which he 
enjoyed the collaboration of his son Ishaq 4 and his nephew 
tlubaysh tbn-al-rjasan, 6 whom he trained. Of the numerous 
works ascribed to him some should undoubtedly be credited to 
these two assistants and to other students and members of his 
school, such as *Isa ibn-Yahya e and Musa ibn-Khalid 7 In many 
cases rjunayn evidently did the initial translation from Greek 
into Synac and his colleagues took the second step and trans- 
lated from Syriac into Arabic. 8 Aristotle's Hermemuttca, for 
instance, was first done from Greek into Synac by the father 

» Ibn-al-*Ibri, p. 227, ibn-aoi-Usajbi'Ah, \ol 1, pp. 175 seg.; Qifti, p. 380. 

1 FzAnsi, p. 295. 

2 Ibn al-*Ibri, p 250, ibn-abi-U$iybi*ah, vol i, p. 185. 

4 Ibn-Khallikan, vol p. Il6~de Slanc, vol. i, pp 187-8. 

* Nicknamed al«A*sam, because of a lame hand Ibn-abi-Tjf§a>bt*ah, vol i, pp> 
1S7, 203, Hknst, p 297, *ibn, p. 252 

* Ft An si, p 297 

1 He also translated from Persian into Arabic, tbtd p 244 1 28. 

* Ftkrtst p 249 



and then from Syriac into Arabic by the son Ishaq, who was 
the better Arabist 1 and who became the greatest translator of 
Aristotle's works. Among other books in Arabic Hunayn is 
supposed to have prepared translations of Galen, Hippocrates 
and Dioscorides (fl. ca. A.D. 50) as well as of Plato's Republic 
(Siyasah)* and Aristotle's Categories (Afaqill&i)? Physics 
{Tabftydf) and Magna Moralia {Kktilqlyaf)* Among these his 
chief work was the rendition into Syriac and Arabic of almost 
all of Galen's scientific output. 5 Seven books of Galen's anatomy, 
lost in the original Greek, have luckily been preserved in Arabic* 6 
ftunayn's Arabic version of the Old Testament from the Greek 
Septuagint 7 did not survive. 

IJunayn's ability as a translator may be attested by the report 
that when in the service of the sons of ibn~Shakir he and other 
translators received about 500 dinars (about £250) per month 
and that al-Ma'mun paid him in gold the weight of the books he 
translated. But he reached the summit of his glory not only as 
a translator but as a practitioner when he was appointed by 
al-Mutawakkil (847-61) as his private physician. His patron, 
however, once committed him to jail for a year for refusing the 
offer of rich rewards to concoct a poison for an enemy, When 
brought again before the caliph and threatened with death his 
reply was, "I have skill only in what is beneficial, and have studied 
naught else"* 8 Asked by the caliph, who then claimed that he 
was simply testing his physician's integrity, as to what prevented 
him from preparing the deadly poison, yunayn replied: 

Two things; my religion and my profession. My religion decrees that 
we should do good even to our enemies, how much more to our friends. 
And my profession is instituted for the benefit of humanity and limited 
to their relief and cure. Besides, every physician is under oath never to 
give anyone a deadly medicine*® 

IJunayn ibn-Ishaq al-*Ibadi was judged by ibn-al-'Ibri and 
al-Qifti "a source of science and a mine of virtue", and by 

* &Mst t p. 298, copied by Qiffc, p. So. 1 Ibtd. p. 246, 1, 5. 

* Ihtd. p 24S • Qiftf, p p 38, 42 
1 Ibn-abi-Us^bi'ah, vol. i t pp. iSS 0, Qiftt, pp 94-5. 

* For a MS of another work, al gind'ck al*$cghtrah t comprising ten of the sixteen 
Canonical works of Gaicn and dated 572 (a d. I 176), see Hitti, Fans and 'Abd-al* 
Vlitok i Cai6log<cf the Qarrttt Collection of Arahtc Manuscripts (Princeton, 193S}, 

* Jbn abi*TJsa}bi*ah, vol* i, pp. 187-8, ibn-al-'Ibri, p. 251. 
1 * Ibn*al.*lbn, pp 251*2. 



Lcclerc "la plus grande figure du IX e siecle", and even "une des 
plus belles intelligences et un des plus beaux caractercs que Ton 
rencontre dans Phistoire".* 

Just as rjunayn stood at the head of the Ncstorian group of 
translators, so did Thabit ibn-Qurrah 2 (ca. 836-901) lead another 
group, recruited from among the heathen Sabians 3 of rj[arran 
(ancient Carrhae). These Sabians were star-worshippers and as 
such had interested themselves in astronomy and mathematics 
from time immemorial. During the reign of al-Mutawakkil their 
native town became the seat of a school of philosophy and 
medicine which had been previously transferred from Alexandria 
to Antioch. In this milieu Thabit and his disciples flourished. 
They are credited with having translated the bulk of the Greek 
mathematical and astronomical works, including those of 
Archimedes (f 212 B.C.) and of Apollonius of Perga (b. ca. 262 
B.C.). 4 They also improved on earlier translations. The transla- 
tion of Euclid by rlunayn, for example, was revised by Thabit* 
Thabit found a patron in the Caliph al-Mu'tadid (892-902), 
whose personal friend and table companion he soon became,* 

In his great work Thabit was succeeded by his son Sinan 
(t 943)> his two grandsons Thabit (t 973) 7 and Ibrahim (f 046) 8 
and one great-grandson, abu-al-Faraj, 9 all of whom distinguished 
themselves as translators and scientists. But the greatest 
Salian name after Thabit's was that of al-Battani (f 929, the 
Albategnius or Albatenius of Latin authors), whose first name, 
abu-' Abdullah Muhammad (ibn-Jabir lbn-Sinan), indicates his 
conversion to Islam. Al-Battani's fame, however, rests on his 
original work as an astronomer, as he was not a translator. 

The rjarranian school of mathematical and astronomical 
translators had as its forerunner al-Hajjaj ibn-Yusuf ibn-Matar 
(fL between 786 and 833), generally credited with making the 
first translation of Euclid's Elements and one of the first of 
Ptolemy's Almagest. Of the former work he evidently prepared 
two versions, one for al-Rashid and the other for aI-Ma*mun, 10 

1 L Leclcrc, Ihsloire de la mtdectne arch (Paris, 1S76), vol. i, p. 139 

* His al-Dkakhlrak fi */ftrt al-T*bb was edited by G. Sobhy (Cairo, 1928). 

* In reality pseudo-babians. Sec below, p. 358. 

4 Fihrtst> p 267. * Ibn-KhalliLSn, \ol. i, pp 177, 298, 

• Ibn-abi-Uijaybi'ah, vol. i, p. 216. 7 IHd pp 224-6. 

• Ibid, p 226, Qiffi, pp. 57*9; JFthrtst, p. 27a. 

9 Qiffi, p. 428. 10 Fthnst, p. 265. 


r f ■<■ w 

before Hunayn prepared his. Al-Hajjaj's version of tlie notable - 
astronomical work Almagest was made in from an earlier 
Syriac version. The first attempt at the Almagest had been made 
as early as the days of Yahya ibn-Khalid ibn-Barmak, 1 al- 
Rashid's vizir, but the result was not satisfactory. A later 
adaptation of this work was undertaken by abu-al-Wafa* 
Muhammad al-Buzjani al-Flasib 3 (94097 or 998), one of the , 
greatest Moslem astronomers and mathematicians. Another late 
translator of mathematical and philosophical works was Qusta n 
ibn-Luqa (f ca. 922), a Christian of Ba*labakk, whose list of 
original works in the Fthrist* numbers thirty-four. 

The latter part of the tenth century saw the rise of Jacobite, or 
Monophysite, translators represented by Yahya ibn-*Adi, who 
was born in Takrlt in 893 and died in Baghdad in 974, and 
abu-*Ali f Isa ibn-Zur'ah of Baghdad (f 1008) * Yahya, who 
became the archbishop of his church, declared once to the author 
of tlie Fthrtst* that he copied in a day and a night an average of 
a hundred leaves. The Jacobite authors busied themselves with 
the revision of existing editions of Aristotelian works or the 
preparation of fresh translations thereof. They were, moreover, 
the chief influence m introducing Neo-PIatonic spec ilations and 
mysticism into the Arabic world. 

Before the age of translation was brought to an end pracucally 
all the extant works of Aristotle, many of which were of course 
spurious, had become accessible to the Arabic reader. Ibn-abi- 
U§aybi'ah, 6 and after him al-QiftV cite no less than a hundred 
works attributed to "the philosopher of the Greeks". All this 
took place while Europe was almost totally ignorant of Greek 
thought and science. For while al-Rashld and al-Ma'mun were 
delving into Greek and Persian philosophy their contempor- 
aries in the West, Charlemagne and his lords, were reportedly 
dabbling in the art of writing their names. Aristotle's logical 
Orgatwn, which in Arabic included Aristotle's Rhetoric and 
Poetics as well as Porphyry's Isagoge, soon took its place side 
by side with Arabic grammar as the basis of humanistic studies 
in Islam. This position it has maintained to the present day. 
t FtAnst, pp. 267-S Cf. above, p 311. 

* Bttq&n in Quhistln was his birthplace, fr&stb means "mathematician'*. 
8 P» 295- Cf. Qifti, pp. 262-3. 

* Fikrtst, p. 26$; ibn-abi-U?aybi*ah, \ol i, pp. 235-6; Qifti, pp. 245*6, 

* V. 204- * Vol. i, pp. 57 ? Pp 34 set* 



Moslems accepted the idea of Neo-Platonic cortfmentators that 
the teachings of Aristotle and Plato (Afiatun) were substantially 
the same. Especially in Sufism, Moslem mysticism, did the 
influence of Neo-Platonism manifest itself. Through Avicenna 
(ibn-Sma) and Averroes (ibn-Rushd), as we shall later see, 
Platonism and Aristotelianism found their way into Latin and 
exercised a determining influence upon medieval European 

This long and fruitful age of translation under the early 
'Abbasids was followed by one of original contribution which 
we shall discuss in a later chapter. By the tenth century Arabic, 
which in pre-Islamic days was only a language of poetry and 
after Muhammad mainly a language of revelation and religion, 
had become metamorphosed in a remarkable and unprecedented 
way into a pliant medium for expressing scientific thought and 
conveying philosophic ideas of the highest order. In the mean- 
time it had established itself as the language of diplomacy and 
polite intercourse from Central Asia, through the whole length 
of Northern Africa, to Spain. Ever since that time the peoples of 
al^Iraq, Syria and Palestine as well as of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria 
and Morocco have expressed their best thought in the tongue of 
the Arabians. 

Bntish MusP"» 
FrovttI W C Dav\i/ Mtdietval kngl&nf* {ClartndonPrtsi) 


It bears on the obverse the shakddak and on the rc\crsc o*"*a rex inscribed 
upside down 


&T the head of the state stood the caliph, who was, in theory at The 
f casfr, the fountainhead of all power. He could and did delegate 
the exercise of his civil authority to a vizir (wazir), of his judicial 
power to a judge (qddz), of his military function to a general 
[amtr) % but the caliph himself ever remained the final arbiter of 
all governmental affairs. In their imperial conduct and function 
the early caliphs of Baghdad followed the older Persian pattern. 
Taking advantageof the popular reaction against the ungodliness 
of the later Umayyads, the 'Abbasids made their debut with 
emphasis on the religious character and dignity of their office as 
an imamate, an emphasis which in later years increased in 
inverse proportion to their actual power. With the eighth caliph, 
al-Mu f tasim bi-Allah (833-42), and continuing till the end of the 
dynasty, they began to assume honorific titles compounded with 
Allah. In the period of decline their subjects started to shower on 
them such extravagant titles as khalifat Allah (God's caiiph) 
and later sill Allah t ala al-ard (God's shadow on earth). These 
were evidently first bestowed on al-Mutawakkil (847-61), 1 and 
persisted until the last days of the Ottoman caliphate. 

The ill-defined hereditary principle of succession instituted by 
the Umayyad caliphs was followed throughout the *Abbasid 
regime with the same evil results. The reigning caliph would 
designate as his successor that one of his sons whom he 
favoured or considered competent, or any of his kinsmen whom 
he regarded as best qualified. Al-Saffah nominated his brother 
al-Mansur, who was succeeded by his son aI-Mahdi. s Al-Mahdi 
was succeeded by his eldest son, al-Hadi, who was followed by his 
brother Harun al-Rashid. 3 Harun designated his oldest son, al- 
Amin, as his first successor, and his younger but more talented 

5 Mas'udi, vol. vti, p. 27S. 

* See YVqubi, vol. ri, pp. 437 seq^ 472 seq.; Fa&hri, p. 236. 

* r clhri. pp. 261-2; Tabari, vol. iii, p. 523. 



son, al-Mamun, as his second successor. He divided the empire 
between the two, reserving for al-Ma*mun the government of 
Khurasan with Marw (Marv) for his capital. 1 After a bitter 
struggle which ended in the assassination of al-Amln (September 
813), al-Ma'mun usurped the caliphate. Four years later, -when 
he donned the green of the Shfah in preference to the black of 
the 'Abbasids and designated an f AIid, 'Ali al-Rida, as heir 
apparent, the enraged Baghdadis elected (July 817) al-Ma'miUVs 
uncle Ibrahim ibn-al-Mahdi as caliph. Not until 819, six years 
after the death of his predecessor, did aI-Ma*mun succeed in 
effecting an entry into the capital of the empire. Shordy before 
his death al-Ma*mun, ignoring his son al-^Abbas, designated his 
brother al-Mu'tasim as his successor, thus almost precipitating 
a revolt on the part of the army, with whom the son was a special 
favourite, Al-Mu*tasim was followed by his son al-Wathiq 
(f 847), with whom the period of *Abbasid glory ended. Of the 
first twenty-four caliphs, whose reign covered almost two cen- 
turies and a half (750-991), only six were immediately succeeded 
by a son. 

Attached to the person of the caliph was the chamberlain 
(Jiajzb), whose duty consisted in introducing accredited envoys 
and dignitaries into the cahphal presence and whose influence 
naturally became great. There was also the executioner, an 
outstanding figure in the Baghdad court. Vaulted underground 
chambers used for torture appear for the first time m Arab 
history . The court astrologer, like the executioner an importation 
from Persia, became an adjunct of the f Abbasid throne. 
Vtnr Next to the cahph stood the vizir (wazlr\ whose office was 

influenced by the Persian tradition. 2 The vizir acted as the 
caliph's alter ego and grew in power as his chief indulged in- 
creasingly in the pleasures of the harem. In the diploma appoint- 
ing his vizir the Caliph al~Nasir (1 180-1225) has given a perfect 
expression to the theory of 1 'divine right" of kingship working 
by proxy: 

Muhammad ibn-Barz al-Qummi is our representative throughout 
the land and amongst our subjects. Therefore he who obeys him obeys 
us; and he who obeys us obeys God, and God shall cause him who 
obeys Him to enter Paradise. As for one who, on the other hand, 

1 Ya'qubi, \oh 11, pp 500 stq ; Fakhrt ) p. 292, Mns'fidi, Tanhlk^ p. 345. 

3 Cf lbn al 'Abbas, At) ' ar al-Uioa) fi Tarttb aUDuwal (Cairo, 1295), p. 62, S, 0. 
Goitcm m Islan tc Culture, \o\ xvi (1942), pp 255 63, 3S0 92 

orlxxv A THE *ABBA5ID STATE ^3*9' 

disobeys our vizir, he disobeys us; and he who disobeys us disobeys 
God, and God shall cause him who disobeys Him to enter hell-fire. 1 

As in the case of the Barmakids the vizir was often all- 
powerful, appointing and deposing governors and judges, 
theoretically, of course, with the consent of the caliph, and even 
transmitting his own office according to the hereditary principle. 
ItVas customary for the vizir to confiscate the property of the 
governor who fell from grace, as it was customary for the 
governor himself to appropriate the estates of inferior officials 
and private citizens and for the caliph in his turn to mete out the 
same penalty to the deposed vizir. 2 Indeed, the forfeiture of 
possessions was often accompanied by loss of life. Finally a 
special "bureau of confiscation" 3 was instituted as a regular 
governmental department. In the days of the Caliph ai-Mu*tadid 
the vizir received a monthly salary of a thousand dinars. Al- 
Mawardi 4 and other legal theorists distinguish between two 
varieties of vizirate: a iafwid (with full authority, unlimited) 
and a tanftdh (with executive power only, limited). The un- 
limited vizir exercised all the powers of sovereignty with the 
exception of the appointment of his successor; the limited vizir 
took no Initiative but confined his duties to the execution of 
the caliph's orders and the following of his instructions. After 
the time of al-Muqtadir (908-32) the vizir was supplanted by the 
amir al-umar&\ commander of the commanders, an office which 
.was subsequently held by the Buwayhids, 

The vizir, in reality grand vizir, presided over the council, 
whose membership included the various heads of the depart- 
ments of state. Sometimes those heads were also designated 
vizirs, but their rank was always subordinate to that of the real 
vizir. Under the *Abbasids the governmental machinery became 
much more complicated than heretofore, though greater order 
^was brought into state affairs, especially in the system of taxation 
and the administration of justice. Since finances constituted the 
main concern of the government the bureau of taxes {ditvan 
td~kharaj) t or department of finance {bayt al-mat), remained, as 
under the Umayyads, the most important unit; its chief, often 

, * Fstkhn % p. 205, a Ibn-al-Athlr, vol. vi, pp. 19-20, 

* Cf. HiL*ila!-5abi% Tutif&t at-Umeraft Tdrikh aLWuzar£ t ed. H. F. Amedrtu 
t{Bdrat f 1904}, p. 366. r 



referred to as "master of taxes", continued to be an outstanding 
figure in the government of the caliph. 

The sources of revenue for the state included zakah, the only 
legal tax obligatory on every Moslem. Zakah was imposed on 
arable lands, herds, gold and silver, commercial wares and other 
forms of property capable of augmentation through natural 
increase or by investment. Moslems, as we learned before, paid 
no poll tax. The official tax-gatherer looked after lands, herds and 
the like, but personal effects, including gold and silver, were left 
to the individual's private conscience. AH money collected from 
believers was disbursed from the central treasury for the benefit 
of believers: the poor, the orphan, the stranger, volunteers for 
the holy war and slaves and captives to be ransomed. The 
other main sources of public income were tribute from foreign 
enemies, truce money, capitation tax from non-Moslem subjects 
(jtzyak)> land tax (khardf) x and tithes levied upon merchandise 
owned by non-Moslems and imported into Moslem territory. Of 
these items the land tax was always the largest and constituted 
the main source of income from unbelievers. All this revenue was 
at this time referred to as fay (cf. Koran 59 : 7) and applied by 
the caliph to the payment of the troops, the maintenance of 
mosques, roads and bridges and for the general good of the 
Moslem community. 2 

The varying reports of the state revenue that have come dcwa 
to us from the f Abbasid period testify to great prosperity during 
the first century of the regime, which made it possible for the 1 
caliphs to live on the grand scale described above, and to a steady 
decline in revenue during each succeeding century. Three such 
reports have been preserved for us: the oldest, in ibn-Khaldun, 
showing the income under al-Ma*mun; the second, in Qudamah, 
for the revenue a few years later, possibly under al-Mu*ta§im; and 
the third, in ibn-Khurdadhbih, indicating the proceeds in the first 
half of the third Moslem century. According to ibn-Khaldun 3 the 

1 By this time the different! ation between jttyah and kharaj had been clearly made. 
See above, p 171, In later times the jizyah corresponded to albadal al-cskan 
(scutage), T*hich the Ottomans exacted from their non Moslem subjects for exemp- 
tion from military service. 

* Mawardi, pp. 366 seq, * 

* Muqaddamakt pp 150 51. Cf Huart, Htstoirc des Arabes, \ol 1, p. 376, Alfred 
von Kremer, Culturgescktchte des Orients tmter den Chchfen* vol 1 (Vienna, 1875), 
pp. 356 seq. It is obuous that lbn KhaloWs list, like the other t\\0, is neither clear 
nor accurate. 




annual land taxpaid by al-Sawad (lower 'Iraq, ancient Babylonia) 
in cash, other than what was paid in kind, amounted in the days 
of al-Ma'mun to 27,800,000 dirhams; by Khurasan, 28,000,000; 
by Egypt, 23,040,000; by Syria-Palestine, 1 14,724,000; and by 
all the provinces of the empire, 331,929,008 dirhams exclusive 
of taxes in kind. From Qudamah's 2 balance-sheet it may be 
gathered that the income in both cash and kind from al-Sawad 
was equivalent to 130,200,000 dirhams; 3 from Khurasan, 
37,000,000; from Egypt, including Alexandria, 37,500,000; from 
Syria-Palestine, including Hims, 1 5,860,000; and from the whole 
empire, 388,291,350 dirhams, which includes taxes in kind. 
Ibn-Khurdadhbih 4 lists a number of items from which we may 
calculate that the tax of al-Sawad in cash and kind was the 
equivalent of 78,319,340 dirhams; 6 of Khurasan and depend- 
encies, 44,846,000; of Syria-Palestine, 6 29,850,000; and of the 
whole empire, 299, 26 5, 3 40. 7 As for the expenditures, we have 
no sufficient data in the scattered references to warrant definite 
conclusions. But we are told that when al-Mansur died the central 
treasury contained 600,000,000 dirhams and 14,000,000 dinars; 8 
when al-Rashld died it had over 900,000,0c o, 9 and at the death 
of aUMuktafi (908) the public treasures including jewellery, 
furniture and real estate amounted to 100,000,000 dinars. 10 

Besides the bureau of taxes the 'Abbasid government had an 
audit or accounts office (dixuan al-zimdm) introduced by al- 
Mahdi; a board of correspondence or chancery office {diwdn 
al-iawqf) which handled all official letters, political documents 
and imperial mandates and diplomas; a board for the inspection 
of grievances; a police department and a postal department. 

The board for the inspection of grievances {diwdn al-nazar fi 
al-masdiim) was a kind of court of appeal or supreme court 
intended to set aright cases of miscarriage of justice in the 

1 Qinnasrm, Damascus, the Jordan and Palestine, the taxes of which are given as 
1,227,000 dinars, 

* Kkaraj, pp. 237-52. 

s In cash alone 8,095,800 dirhams; Qudamah, pp. 249, 239. As a matter of fact 
he gives different 6gures in different places and on his lists the totals do not tally 
with the itemized statements. 

* Passim* 

* ,* In cash alone about 8,456,840 dirhams; ibn-Khurdiidhbih, pp. 5 seq. 

* Qinnasrin and other frontier towns, 1 Iim$, Damascus, the Jordan and Palestine. 
Zn>dln, Tamcddur:, voU ii, p. 61. Cf. Huart, vol. i, p. 37G. 

* l Mas'udi, vol. vi, p. 233. 

1 Tabari, vol iii, p. 764. 10 Tha'aiibi, Lata V/, p* ?3, 



administrative and political departments. Its origin goes back 
to the Umayyad days, for al-Mawardi 1 tells us that *Abd-al-^ 
Malik was the first caliph to devote a special day for the direct 
hearing by himself of appeals and complaints made by his 
subjects. *Umar II zealously followed the precedent. 2 This 
practice uas evidently introduced by al-Mahdi into the 'Abbasid 
regime. His successors al-Hadi, Harun, al-Ma'mun and those 
who followed received such complaints in public audience; al- 
Muhtadi {869-70) was the last to keep up the custom. The 
Norman king Roger II (1130-54) introduced this institution 
into Sicily, where it struck root in European soil. 3 

The police department (diwan al-shurtaK) was headed by a 
high official designated sahib al-shurtah, who acted as chief of 
police and the royal bodyguard and in later times occasionally 
held the rank of vizir. Each large city had its own special police 
who also held military rank and were as a rule well paid. The 
chief of municipal police was called muhtastb % for he acted as 
overseer of markets and morals It was his duty to see that 
proper weights and measures were used in trade, that legitimate 
debts were paid (though he had no judicial power), that approved 
morals were maintained and that acts forbidden by law, such as 
gambling, usury and public sale of wine, were not committed 
Al-Mawardi 4 enumerates, among other interesting duties of this 
prefect of police, the maintenance of the recognized standards 
of public morality between the two sexes and the chastisement of 
those who dyed their grey beards black with a view to gaining 
the favour of the ladies. 

A significant feature of the 'Abbasid government was the 
postal department, 5 of which the chief was called sahib al-barid. 
Among the Umayyads Mu'awiyah, as we have already learned, 
was the first to interest himself in the postal service, *Abd-aI- 
Malik extended it throughout the empire and al-Walid made use 
of it for his building operations. Historians credit Harun with 

* P. 131. Cf. jbn al Athir, \ol j, p, 46. 

1 Mawardi, p 131, Cf Ya'qubi, vol u, p 367. Consult al-Bayhaqi, cl Matann 
to al Afasawi, cd F. Schwally (Giessen, 1902), pp 525 jeq. 

3 M Aman, Storia dtt JBJusuimam di Szci/ta, cd NalUno, \ol. m (Catatua, 
l937-9)» P 45 2 ; von Krcmer, Culturgcschuhic, \ol i, p 420 

* Pp 417.18, 431 , 

6 Ditcdn c! barfd, bureau of post Ar barzdn> probably a Semitic word, not related 
to Latin rer*ifaj,Pcrs a swft horse, Ar inrdkatvn, horse of burden Cf.Esth. 

S i 10; I^fahani, Tartkh t p 39 

'Cmxxv" , THE 'ABBASID STATE 3*3 

having organized the service on a new basis through his Bar- 
makid counsellor Yahya. Though primarily designed to serve 
the interests of the state, the postal institution did in a limited 
way handle private correspondence. 1 Each provincial capital 
tv f as provided with a post office. Routes connected the imperial 
capital with the leading centres of the empire 5 and systems of 
relays covered these routes. In all there must have been hundreds 
of such relay routes, In Persia the relays consisted of mules and 
horses; in Syria and Arabia camels were used, 3 The bartd was 
also employed for the conveyance of newly appointed governors 
to their respective provinces and for the transportation of troops 
with their baggage. 4 The public could make use of it on the 
payment of a substantial sum. 

Pigeons were trained and used as letter-carriers. The first 
recorded instance relates to the news of the capture of the rebel 
Babik (Babak), chief of the Khurrami 5 sect, carried to al- 
Mu*tasim by this method in 83 7. 6 

The postal headquarters in Baghdad had itineraries of the 
whole empire indicating the various stations and the intervening 
distances. These itineraries assisted travellers, merchants and 
pilgrims and laid the basis of later geographical research. Early 
Arab students of geography made use of such postal directories 
in the composition of their works. One of the leaders among 
them, ibn-Khurdadhbih (f ea. 912), whose al-Masalik w-al- 
„ Mamdlik, based on material in the state archives, proved an 
important source for historical topography, was himself sahib 
al-barid for the Caliph al-Mu*tamid in al-Jibal (ancient Media). 
This elaborate road system which radiated from the imperial 
capital was an inheritance from the earlier Persian empire. In it 
the most famous of the trunk roads was the Khurasan highway, 
which stretched north-east through Hamadhan, al-Rayy, Naysa- 
bur, Tus, Marw, Bukhara, Samarqand, and connected Baghdad 
j with the frontier towns of the Jaxartes and the borders of China* 
Fromxheprincipal cities along this highway cross-roads branched 
" fcffjjorth and south. To the present day the Persian post roads 

1 teats'udi, vol. vj, p, 03, H, 56. * Ibn-Khurdadhbih,/or*m. 

y , 8 CL ibn al Athir, vol. vi, p, 40, 11, 1 1 -12. * Jbtd vol. iv, pp 373-4* 

* 00 called from a district in Persia where the sect evidently arose as a result of the 
execution of the famous aWMushm aUKhurasani Some of them denied that abu- 

? Mushm ^ax dead &od foretold Ms return to spread jusUce in the world, Mas'udi, 
4 vol^jp. iSG, Baghdad!, ea,Hitb\ pp. 164 m$s, Fthrist,p. 34s. 

* Mas'ads, vol* vii, pp xa6^ „ 




centring in Tihran (Teheran), near ancient al-Rayy, follow the 
same old tracks. Another main road led from Baghdad down the 
Tigris through Wasit and al-Basrah to al-Ahwaz in Khuzistan 
and thence to Shlraz in Faris. Likewise this road sent off east and 
west branches which connected its towns with other centres of 
population and ultimately with the Khurasan trunk. These roads 
Were frequented by pilgrims, who from Baghdad could take the 
pilgrim route to Makkah through al-Kufah or ai-Basrah. For 
the benefit of pilgrims and travellers caravanserais, hospices and 
cisterns dotted the main roads. Such khans along the Khurasan 
road were built as early as the days of f Umar II. 1 A third high- 
way linked Baghdad with al-Mawsil, Amid (Diyar Bakr) and 
the frontier fortresses. On the north-west Baghdad was connected 
with Damascus and other Syrian towns through al-Anbar and 

"The postmaster- general had another important function 
besides looking after the imperial mail and supervising the 
various postal establishments; he was the chief of an espionage 
system to which the whole postal service was subordinated. As 
such his full title was sd/jib al-barid w-al-akkbdr? controller of 
the post and intelligence service. In this capacity he acted as an 
inspector-general and direct confidential agent of the central 
government. The provincial postmaster reported to him or to the 
caliph directly on the conduct and activities of the government 
officials in his province, not excluding the governor himself. 
Such a report, submitted to al-Mutawakkil against a governor 
of Baghdad who brought back with him from a pilgrimage to 
Makkah a beautiful slave girl "with whom he amuses himself 
from noon till night to the neglect of the affairs of the state", has 
come down to us in a late source, 3 Al-Mansur employed in his 
espionage system merchants, pedlars and travellers who acted 
as detectives; al-Rashtd and other caliphs did the same. 4 Al- 
Ma'mun is said to have had in his intelligence service in Bagh- 
dad some 1700 aged women. Especially was "the land of the 
Romans" covered with *Abbasid spies of both sexes disguised as 
traders, travellers and physicians. 

1 Ibn-al-Athir, vol. v, p. 44; Naivawi, Tchdhtb, p. 468, I. 16. 
v » QudSmah, p. 1S4, 

* Atliai. riam at-Nas (Cairo, 1297), p. 161. 
* * Cf, AghSni, vol. xv, p. 36, 1. 14; Miskawayh, cd, de Goeje and dc Jong, pp. 234, 



The dispensing of justice, always considered in Moslem com- 
munities a religious duty, was entrusted by the 'Abbasid caliph 
or his vizir to a member of the faqik (theologian) class, who thus 
became a qadi? or if in Baghdad a qddt al-quddk (chief judge). 
The first to receive the title of qadi al-quddk was the famous 
abu-Yusuf (t ca. 798), who served under al-Mahdi and his two 
sons al-Hadi and Harun. 2 The judge, according to the theory of 
Moslem law, had to be male, adult, in full possession of his 
mental faculties, a free citizen, Moslem in faith, irreproachable 
in character, sound of sight and hearing and well versed in the 
prescriptions of law, 3 all of which was of course canon law. Non» 
Moslems, as noted before, were in matters of civil right under 
the jurisdiction of their own ecclesiastical heads or magistrates. 
Al-Mawardi 4 distinguishes between two types of judgeship: one 
in which the authority is general and absolute (^ammah mutlaqah) 
and the other in which the authority is special and limited 
(khdssaft). The chief duties of the qadi of the first class consisted 
in deciding cases, acting as guardian for orphans, lunatics and 
minors, administering pious foundations, imposing punishments 
on violators of the religious law, appointing judicial deputies 
(sing, nd*zb) in the various provinces and presiding under 
certain conditions at the Friday congregational prayers. In the 
early history of the institution the provincial judges held their 
appointment from the governors, but in the fourth Moslem 
century those judges were usually deputies of the chief qadi in 
Baghdad. Under al-Ma'mun the pay of the judge of Egypt is 
said by a late authority 5 to have reached 4000 dirhams a month. 
The judge of the second class, one with special and limited 
authority, had his power restricted in accordance with the 
diploma of appointment from the caliph, vizir or governor. 6 

The Arab caliphate never maintained a large standing army 
in the strict sense of the term, well organized, under strict 
discipline and subject to regular instruction and drill. The 
cahphal bodyguard {haras) were almost the only regular troops 
and formed the nucleus around which clustered bands under 

1 Transliterated in at least thirteen different ways, six of which occur in official 
British documents qadt t qass, katt, cadt, al kalt, katkt* 
1 Ibn-Khalhkan, vol 111, p 334 ~ de Slane, vol iv, p. 273. 
x Muv.ardi, pp 107-11. * Pp 117*25. 

* SuyxHi, ffusn y vol it, p 100, 1 4 

• Consult Richard Gotthed in Jtexme des itudts ethnogrcphiques (1908), pp. 
385 93 


their own chiefs, besides mercenaries and adventurers, and 
general* levies of which the units were tribes or districts. The 
regulars (Jtind) who were permanently on active service were 
referred to as murtaziqah (regularly paid), for they were in the 
pay of the government. Others were designated mutatawtvx x ah x 
(volunteers) and received rations only while on duty. The 
volunteer ranks were recruited from among the Bedouins as 
well as from the peasants and townspeople. Members of the 
bodyguard received higher pay and were equipped with better 
armour and uniforms. In the reign of the first 'Abbasid caliph 
the average pay of the foot soldier was, besides the usual rations 
and allowances, about 960 dirhams a year, 8 the horseman 
receiving double that amount. Under al-Ma'mun, when the 
empire reached its height, the 'Iraq army is said to have num- 
bered 125,000, of whom the infantry received only 240 dirhams 
a year* and the cavalry twice as much. And when it is remem- 
bered that al-Mansur paid his master builder at the founding 
of Baghdad the equivalent of about a dirham a day and the 
ordinary labourer about a third of a dirham, 4 it becomes clear 

* how comparatively well paid the military career was. 

The regulars under the early 'Abbasids were composed of 
infantry (harbiyah)* armed with spears, swords and shields, of 
archers (rdmiyah) and of cavalry (fursdn) wearing helmets and 
breast-plates and equipped with long lances and battle-axes. 

, AKMutawakkil introduced the practice of wearing the sword in 
the Persian fashion round the waist in preference to the old 
Arabian way of carrying it over the shoulder. 6 Each corps of 
archers had attached to it a body of naphtha-throwers (itaffdtun) 
who wore fireproof suits and huried incendiary material at the 
enemy. 7 Engineers in charge of the siege machinery, including 
catapults, mangonels and battering-rams, accompanied the 
army. One such engineer, ibn-Sabir al-Manjanlqi, who flourished 

* Or vtuttawitn^h, Tabari, vol. iii, pp. 1008 se$.\ lbn-Khaldun, vol, iu\ p. 260. 

* Tabari, vol. iii, p. 41, 11. 17-18, copied by ibn-al*Athir, vol. v, p, 322, 11. 14-15. 
* * When al-Ma'mun was fighting his brother he had to restore the standard 960 
dirhams, which sum was likewise paid by his toother. Taban, vol* m, p 830, 11. 

p. £67, 1. 14* 

* IChatib, vol. I, p. 70; Tabari, vol. iii, p. 326. 

1 Mentioned hy Tabari, voL hi, pp. $oS seq.) ibn-Xhaldun, vol. iii, p. 238, 1 17 
J\ 245, 11. 23, 26. 

Ibn-KhaldQn, vol. iii, p. 575. 
1 AgUni t vol. xvil, p. 45; ibn-KhaJdun, vol ai, p. 260, 1. 20. 



later under al-Nasir (1180-1225), left an unfinished book which 
treats of the art of warfare in all its details* 1 Field hospitals and 
ambulances in the shape of litters carried by camels accompanied 
the army when in the field. As usual, Harun is the caliph 
credited with introducing these features and pressing science 
into the service of warfare* 

During the 'Abbasid regime, which, as we have seen before, 
owed its rise to Persian rather than Arab arms, the Arabian 
element lost its military, as it did its political, predominance. 
Under the first caliphs the bodyguard, the strong arm of the 
military machine, was largely composed of Khurasani troops. 
The Arab soldiery formed two divisions: one of North Arabians, 
Mudarite, and the other of South Arabians, Yamanite, New 
converts to Islam attached themselves to some Arabian tribe as 
clients and thus formed a part of the military organization of 
that tribe. Al-Mu f tasim added a new division made up of Turks, 
originally his slaves, from Farghanah and other regions of 
Central Asia. 2 This new imperial bodyguard soon became the 
terror of the whole capital, and in 836 the caliph had to build a 
new town, Samarra, to which he transferred his seat of govern- 
ment. After the death of al-Muntasir (861-2) these Turks began 
to play the part of a pnetorian guard and exercise a determining 
influence on affairs of the state. 

In Roman-Byzantine fashion every ten men of the army under 
al-Ma'mun, al-Musta'In and other 'Abbasid caliphs were com- 
manded by an 'arif (corresponding to the decurion), every fifty 
by a khallfah % and every hundred by a qaid (corresponding to 
the centurion). 3 At the head of a corps of 10,000, comprising 
ten battalions, stood the amir (general). A body of a hundred 
men formed a company or squadron and several such companies 
constituted a cohort (kurdiis). Von Kremer 4 has reconstructed 
for us a realistic picture of an Arab army of those days on the 

Throughout its first century the 'Abbasid caliphate depended 
for its very existence on a strong and contented soldiery, which 
was used not only for suppressing revolts in Syria, Persia and 

1 Ibn-Khallikan, vol, hi, p. 397. 1 Mas'udi, vol. vij, p. 118. 

» Ibn-Khaldiin, vol. p. 299, 1. 7. Cf. Mas'Qdi, vol. vi, p. 452; Tat>ari> vol. hi, 
p. 1799- 

* Cutiurgeschickte, vol. i, pp. 227-9 »S. Khuda Bukhsh, 754* Orient under tht 
Cahphs (Calcutta X920), pp. 333-5* 



Central Asia but for waging aggressive war against the Byzan- 
tines- "Two things", in the opinion of a modern scholar, 1 
-'/rendered the Saracens of the tenth century dangerous foes,— 
their numbers and their extraordinary powers of locomotion. 1 * 

, But that was not all. In the treatise on military tactics attributed to 
the Emperor Leo VI the Wise* (886-91 2) we are told: "Of all the 
[barbarous] nations they [the Saracens] are the best advised and 

- most prudent in their military operations". The following pass- 
age from the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogcnitus 3 (913-59) 
describes the impression left by the Arabs on their Byzantine 
foes: "They are powerful and warlike, so that if only a thousand 
of them occupy a camp it is impossible to dislodge them. They 
do not ride horses but camels." From statements in these and 

„* other Byzantine sources such as the work on military tactics 

* composed by the Emperor Nicephorus Phocas (963-9) it is evident 
that cold and rainy weather was distasteful to the Arab warriors, 
that once their line was broken in action they usually lacked the 
necessary discipline to restore it and that their foot was in 
general a mer6 rabble of plunderers ineffective as a fighting 

^machine* Yet it is evident that the Byzantines looked upon the 
Arabs, whom they called infidels and barbarous, as their most 
, formidable enemy. In the course of the tenth century, however, 
this enemy grew less and less dangerous until by its end the 
Byzantines were habitually taking the offensive and threatening 
even Damascus and Baghdad. 

The^ decline of the 'Abbasid military power began with the 
introduction by al-Mutawakkil of the foreign units, which 
" contributed to the destruction of the necessary conditions for 

* the upkeep of the morale and esprit de corps. Later on al- 
Muqtadir (908-32) initiated the policy of farming out provinces 

/to governors or military commanders who were to pay their 
> troops from local state funds and not from the depleted imperial 
" treasury. Under the Buwayhid regime soldiers received grants 
1 in the form of lands instead of pay in cash. This sowed the seeds 
of a feudal military system which was further developed under 
the,Saljuqs. It then became customary for governors and 
generals to receive as grants towns or districts over which they 

1 Oman, Art of Wtsr % 2nd cd. t vol. i, p. 209. 

VTfccrica'\ Consti tutio xviii, \ 123, in Mtgne, Potrahgia Gr<tca, vol. wi, 

* **Ue adfmnt«tran<io imperio*'. caput xr, in Mtgne, Pafrofapta Graca, vol. exui 


ruled with absolute power, paying the Saljuq sultan a year!) t 
tribute and, in time of war, marching under his banner with a" 
fixed number of troops equipped and supported by themselves 
The Umayyad partition of the empire into provinces under 
governors (sing, amir or 'dmif), a division based on earlier 
Byzantine and Persian models, was not radically changed under 
the 'Abbasids. The 'Abbasid list of provinces varied from time 
to time and the political classification may not always have 
tallied with the geographical as preserved in ai-Istakhri, ibn- 
Hawqal, ibn-al-Faqlh and similar works; but the following seem 
to have been the chief provinces under the early caliphs of 
Baghdad: (i) Africa west of the Libyan Desert together with 
Sicily; (2) Egypt; (3) Syria and Palestine, which were sometimes 
separated; (4) al-I^ijaz and al-Yamamah (Central Arabia), 
(5) al-Yaman or Southern Arabia; 1 (6) al-Bahrayn and 'Urnan, 
with al-Basrah in al-'Iraq for its capital; (7) al«Sawad, or ai- 
'Iraq (Lower Mesopotamia), whose leading cities after Baghdad 
were al-Kufah and Wash; (8) al-JazTrah (i.e. the island, rather 
the peninsula, ancient Assyria), whose capital was al-Ma\v$il 
(Mosul); (9) Adharbayjan, of which Ardabli, Tibriz and 
Maraghah were the leading towns; (10) al-Jibai (the mountains, 
ancient Media), later called al-'Iraq al-'Ajami (the Persian 
'Iraq),* of which the principal cities were Hamadhan (ancient 
Ecbatana), al-Rayy and I§bahan (Isfahan, Ispahan); (it) Khuzi- 
stan, with al-Ahwaz and Tustar* as chief towns; (12) Fans, of 
which Shlraz was the capital; (13) Karman, whose present 
capital bears the same name; (14) Mukran, which included 
modern Baluchistan and extended to the highlands overlooking 
the Indus valley; (15) Sijistan or Sistan, whose capital was 
Zaranj; (16-20) Quhistan, Qumis, Tabaristan, Jurjan and 
Armenia; (21) Khurasan, which included what has now become 
the north-western part of Afghanistan and whose leading cities 
wercNaysabur, Marw, Harat (Herat) and Balkh; (22) Khwarizm, 
whose early capital was Kath; (23) al-Sughd (ancient Sogdiana) 
between the Oxus and Jaxartes, having two "famous cities, 
Bukhara and Samarqand; (24, etc.) Farghanah, al-Shasb 

1 These five provinces were often referred to as aqalirt a!-moghrib> the oca dental 
provinces, in contradistinction to the rest referred to as cqdUm al mashn^ the 
oriental provinces. 

* Sn contract to al-'Iraq al«*Arabi (the Arabian *Iriiq). i e> Lover Mesopotamia* 

* Called Shustar or Shushtar by the Persian*. 


J (modern Tashkand) and other Turkish lands, 1 The Ottoman 
Turkish vilayets in Western Asia, it may be noticed, correspond 

^ geographically to the old Arab provinces. 

In spite of all efforts on the part of the imperial capital, 
decentralization was the unavoidable consequence of such a 

- far-flung domain with difficult means of intercommunication. 
In all local affairs the governor's authority tended to become 
supreme and his office hereditary. In theory he held his position 
during the pleasure of the vizir, who recommended his appoint- 
ment to the caliph, and went out of office when that vizir was 
removed. As in the case of the vizirate al-Mawardi 2 distinguishes 
between two varieties of governorship: one, imarak x dmmah 
(general amTrate), in which the incumbent held supreme direction 
of military affairs, right of nomination and control of the 
judiciaryi levying of taxes, maintenance of public security, 
safeguarding the state religion against innovation, administra- 

. lion of police and presiding at public prayers on Friday; and the 
other of the more restricted type (khds$ak> special), in which the 
governor had no jurisdiction over judges and taxes. But all this 
classification was largely theoretical, as the authority of the 
provincial governor increased in direct proportion to the personal 
ability of the governor, the weakness of the caliph and the 
distance from the federal capital. The local income from each 
province was in almost every case applied to meet the govern- 
mental expenses of that province. If the expenses were less than 
the local income the governor remitted the balance to the 
caliphal treasury. The administration of justice was in the hands 
of a provincial qadi assisted by a number of deputies stationed in 
the various sub-divisions of the provinces. 

1 Compare list of provinces as given here with lists in Le Strange, Eastern 
Calif hat£ r pp, i-o; Zaydan, Tanaddun, vol. ii, pp. 37 44; von Kremcr, Cultur* 
gttshithttt \o\. \ t p. 184 

* Fp, 47-54. 


THE primitive tribal system, the basic pattern of Arabian social 
organization, entirely broke down under the 'Abbasids, who 
owed their throne to foreign elements. Even the caliphs in such 
matters as the choice of wives and mothers for their children set 
no value on Arabian blood. Among the 'Abbasids only three 
caliphs were sons of freemothers: abu-al-* Abbas, al-Mahdi andal- 
Armn, 1 of whom the last enjoyed the unique distinction of having 
both parents from the Prophet's family. 2 Among the Umayyads 
the twelfth caliph, YazTd III, was the first whose mother was a 
non-Arab. But she was at least supposedly a descendant of the 
last Persian emperor, Yazdagird, and was captured byQutaybah 
in Sogdiana and presented by al-FIajjaj to the Caliph al-Walid. 
Among the 'Abbasids al-Mansur's mother was a Berber slave; 
al-Ma'mfin's a Persian slave; al-Wathiq's and al-Muhtadi's were 
Greek; al-Muntasir's was a Greco-Abyssinian; al-Musta'in's 
a Slav {$aqlabiyaK)\ al-Muktafi's as well as al-Muqtadir's were 
Turkish slaves; and al-Mustadi"s Armenian. 3 Harun's mother, 
another foreign slave, was the famous al-Khayzuran — the first 
woman to exercise any appreciable influence in *Abbasid 
caliphal affairs.* 

In bringing about this fusion of the Arabians with their sub- 
ject peoples polygamy, concubinage and the slave trade proved 
effective methods. As the pure Arabian element receded into the 
background non-Arabs, half-breeds and sons of freed women 
began to take their place. Soon the Arabian aristocracy was 
superseded by a hierarchy of officials representing diverse 
nationalities, at first preponderantly Persian and later Turkish. 

1 Tha'ahU, JLafd'tf, p 75* * T*ban, vol. ill, p 937, 11. 12-13. 

* See Tha'ahbi, pp. 75-7, Mas'udi, passim. 

1 For the part she was suspected of having played m the death of her son, the 
Caliph a! -Hadi, and the succession of her other and fa\ounte son, al-Rashid, consult 
rnban, vol in, pp. 569 seq^ copied by ibn-al*AthTr f vol. vi, pp 67 seq. Cf. Mas'Gdi, 
vol vi, pp. 282-3 




A bard gave expression to the proud Arabian sentiment when 

<% san §>- Sons of concubines have become 

So numerous amongst us; 
Lead me, O God, to a land 
Where I shall see no bastards. 1 

Unfortunately Arab historians had their interest too much 
centred in the caliph's affairs and political happenings to leave 
us an adequate picture of the social and economic life of the 
common people in those days. But from sporadic, incidental 
passages in their works, from mainly literary sources and from 
ordinary life in the conservative Moslem Orient of today, it is 
not impossible to reconstruct an outline of that picture. 

The early 'Abbasid woman enjoyed the same measure of h< 
liberty as her Umayyad sister; but toward the end of the tenth ** fi 
century, under the Buwayhids, the system of strict seclusion and 
absolute segregation of the sexes had become general. Not only 
do we read of women in the high circles of that early period 
achieving distinction and exercising influence in state affairs — 
such as al-Khayzuran, al-Mahdt's wife and al-Rash!d*s mother; 
'Ulayyah, daughter of al-Mahdi; Zubaydah, al-Rashid's wife 
and al-Armn's mother; and Burin, al-Ma'mun's wife — but of 
Arab maidens going to war and commanding troops, composing 
poetry and competing with men in literary pursuits or en- 
livening society with their wit, musical talent and vocal ac- 
complishments. Such was 'Ubaydah al-Tunburlyah (i.e. the 
pandore-lady), who won national fame in the days of a!-Mu r tasim 
as a beauty, a singer and a musician. 4 

In the period of decline, characterized by excessive concubinage, 
laxity of sex morality and indulgence in luxury, the position of 
woman sank to the low level we find in the A rabian Nights. There 
woman is represented as the personification of cunning and 
intrigue and as the repository of all base sentiments and un- 
worthy thoughts. In an extraordinary letter of condolence to a 
friend who had lost his daughter, abu-Bakr al-Khwarizmi 
(t «*.*993 or 1002), the first author to leave a collection of 
literary correspondence, asserts: "We are in an age in which if 
.one of us „ , < should marry his daughter to a grave he would 
acquire thereby the best of sons-in-law"/ 

1 Mubarrad. p 304. * Aj?k*iti % vol. xix, pp« 134-7* 

i * Kasaftl (Constantinople, 1297), p. 20. 



Marriage has been regarded almost universally in Islam as a 
positive duty, the neglect of which is subject to severe reproach, 
and the gift of children, especially if sons, a boon from God. A * 
wife's first duty consisted in the service of her husband, the care 
of the children and the management of household affairs; any 
spare time would be occupied with spinning and weaving. The 
fashionable head-dress for women, introduced by * Ulayyah, half* 
sister of al-Rashld, was evidently a dome-shaped cap, round 
the bottom of which was a circlet that could be adorned with 
jewels. Among other objects of feminine adornment were anklets 
(sing, khalkhat) and bracelets (asdwtr), s 

Men's clothing has varied but little since those days, The 
common head-gear was the black high-peaked hat, qalansu- 
wait, made of felt or wool and introduced by al-Man^ur. 1 
Wide trousers (sardzvil) of Persian origin, 3 shirt, vest and jacket 
(quftdn)? with outer mantle £aba or jxibbah 4 ), completed the 
wardrobe of a gentleman. 5 The theologians, following the in- 
structions of abu-Yusuf, al-Rashid's distinguished judge, wore 
distinctive black turbans and mantles (sing, taylasdn). 6 

Judging by the erotic expressions of the poets of the age the 
early Arabian ideals of feminine beauty seem not to have 
suffered much change. Al-Nuwayri devotes a goodly portion of 
a volume 7 to quotations descriptive of such physical charms. The 
woman's stature should be like the bamboo (kkayzurdti) among 
plants, her face as round as the full moon, her hair darker than 
the night, her cheeks white and rosy with a mole not unlike a 
drop of ambergris upon a plate of alabaster, her eyes intensely 
black without any adventitious antimony {kuht) and large like 
those of a wild deer, her eyelids drowsy or languid (saqtnt), her 

1 Above, p. 294* The red fez, tarbush^ still uorn in Moslem lands, is a modem 

1 Jahr?, Bayan^ vol. iii> p 9; R. P. A. Dozy, Dtcfwnnatre detailli des turns des 
vlttmtnts (Amsterdam, J845), pp 203-4. 

* Do7y, pp. 162-3 

4 This Arabic ^ord has worlccd its way from Spanish, where we find it in a late 
tentfi.century dictionary, into the rest of the Romance languages and thence into 
English and the other Germanic languages as -a ell as the Slavonic. In English it has 
left an interesting survival in the word "gibbet", meaning "gallows". 

* Tliis style of dress is still followed b) the older generation in Lebanon and Syria, 

* Ibn-Khallikun, \ol iu, p. 334^ de Slane, vol iv, p 273; Agkant % vol. v, p. 109, 
13. 23*4, vol vi, p« 69, 1 23; lbn-abi-UsaybTah, vol 11, p 4, 1. 23. 

7 Nthayak, vol ii, pp. 1 8 seg. For an illustration of the wealth of the Arabic 
language in terms describing women see ibn-Qayyim al-jawzlyah, Akkbar at-Nis& 
(Cairo, 1319), pp. 119/^. 


^ < •* *» 

mouth small with teeth like pearls set in coral, her bosom pome- 
granate-like, her hips wide and her fingers tapering, with the 
.extranjties dyed with vermilion henna {hinna). 
r The most conspicuous piece of furniture now came to be the 
diwdn, a sofa extending along three sides of the room. Raised 
seats in the form of chairs were introduced under the earlier 
'dynasty,. but cushions laid on small square mattresses (from 
Ar. matrah) on the floor where one could comfortably squat 
remained popular. Hand-woven carpets covered the floor. Food 
was served on large round trays of brass set on a low table in 
front of the dtzvdn or the floor cushions. In the homes of the well- 
to-do the trays were of silver and the table of wood inlaid with 
ebony, mother-of-pearl or tortoise-shell — not unlike those still 
manufactured in Damascus. Those same people who had once 
enjoyed scorpions, beetles and weasels as a luxury, 1 who thought 
rice a venomous food 2 and used flattened bread for writing 
material,* by this time had their gastronomic tastes whetted for 
the delicacies of the civilized world, including such Persian 
'dishes as the greatly desired stew, sikbaf, and the rich sweets, 
fdludkaj. Their chickens were now fed on shelled nuts, almonds 
and milk. In summer, houses were cooled by ice.* Non-alcoholic 
drinks in the form of sherbet, 5 consisting of water sweetened with 
sugar and flavoured with extracts of violets, bananas, roses or 
mulberries, were served, but of course not exclusively. Coffee did 
not attain vogue until the fifteenth century and tobacco was un- 
known before the discovery of the New World. 6 A ninth- to tenth- 
century author 7 has left us a work intended to give an exposition 
of the sentiments and manners of a man or culture {sanf), a 
gentleman, in that period. He is one in possession of polite 
behaviour £ada8) t manly virtue (murttah) and elegant manners 
1 , 

- I Ihn-Khaldun, Muqadjatnak, p 170 * Ibn-al-Faqih, pp. 187-8, 

* Ibn^Khaldun^p. 144. Cf. above, p. 156, 

* ib^kbi*Usaybi*ah> vol 1, pp 139-40. Pp. 82-3 quote from on earlier source a 
prescription which * r can solidify water even in June or July". 

" * Frtom Ar. shcrbah t drink. Eng. "sjrap" comes from a cognate word shardb. 
4 % * Introduced into South Arabia in the fourteenth century, coffee became domesti- 
cated in Makkah early in the fifteenth, and in the first decade of the sixteenth century 
*ras first known in Cairo through Sufis from al-Yaman, who used it at the Azhar 
Mosque to produce the necessary wakefulness for nightly devotions* See above, p. 19, 

'Inhaling of smoke from burning herbs for medical purposes or perhaps for pleasure 

*)iaa been practised before America's discovery. 

* AlAVashsia*, Kttab chMuxvaskiha, ed. Brunnow (Lcyden, 1886), pp. t, is, 
f 33* 37# **4> «5> *i 29-31 > 


\sarf) f who abstains from joking, holds fellowship with thfe right 
comrades, has high standards of veracity, is scrupulous in the 
fulfilment of his promises, keeps a secret, wears unsoiled and 
unpatched clothes, and at the table takes small mouthfuls, 
converses or laughs but little, chews his food slowly, licks not his 
fingers* avoids garlic and onions and refrains from using the tooth- 
pick in toilet rooms, baths, public meetings and on the streets. 

Alcoholic drinks were often indulged in both in company and 
in "private, judging by the countless stories of revelry in such 
works as the Aghani and the Arabian Nights and by the 
numerous songs and poems in praise of wine (khamrtyat) by the 
debauched abu-Nuwas (f ea* 810), the one-day caliph, ibn-al- 
Mu'tazz (f 908), and similar bards, prohibition, one of the 
distinctive features of Moslem religion, did no more prohibit 
then than did the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of 
the^United States. Even caliphs, vizirs, princes and judges paid 
no heed to the religious injunction, 1 Scholars, poets, singers and 
musicians were especially desired as boon companions. This 
practice, which was of Persian origin, 2 became an established 
institution under the early 'Abbasids and developed professionals 
under^al-Rashid. Other than this caliph, al-Hadi, al-Amin, 
sd-Mi&ntin, al-MuHasim, al-Wathiq and al-Mutawakkil were 
given to drink; al-MansGr and al~Muhtadi were opposed to it. 
Indeed al-Nawaji 3 despairs of finding room in his book for ail 
the caliphs,, vizirs and secretaries addicted to the use of the 
forbiddert^beverage. Khatnr % made of dates, was the favourite. 
Ibn-Khaldun argues that such personages as al-Rashld and 
&l~Ma*mun used only nabidh? prepared by soaking grapes, raisins 
or dates in water and allowing the juice to ferment slightly. Such 
drink was judged legal under certain conditions by at least one 
school of .Moslem jurisprudence, the Hanafite. Muhammad 
himself drank it, especially before it was three days old. 5 

r \ 
» * -» , 

** ' v 

x See Kuttrayrij ifth£y*k) vol, iv t pp, 92 scq* 
JaK?> Tdj % pp. ty, 7s; Kaw5p, ffalboh, p. 26. * P. 99, 1L 24.7. 

* Sfuqaddiimdht 16. yChajtir is the term used in the Koran {5^92-3) for the 
prohibited drink. VYhat^prpvides opportunity for the exercise of ingenuity on the 
part of interpreters is firstly tie, fad that at the time of the Prophet there was not in 
■al-Matfinah any^fcA<ji?rr of grapes, the beverage of its inhabitants being: prepared 
from dates? and second!^ that these juices do not ferment until a certain time lapses 
unless they are treated hy special methods* Consult *I$d y vol. in, pp. 405*14, 
< * MisUS^ vol. h\ pp, 172-3; ibn-rjanhal, Musrstsd (Cairo, 1313), yoL I, pp. 

«4G* 2$7. *WO* BnthlrL v^l vl.r* " * 




Convivial parties featuring "the daughter of the vine" and 
song were not uncommon. At these drinking-bouts (sing, majhs 
al-sfurdS*) the host and guests perfumed their beards with civet 
or rose-water and wore special garments of bright colours 
(thiydb al -viunadamafi). The room was made fragrant by 
ambergris or aloes-wood burning in a censer. The songstresses 
who par tit i paled in such gatherings were mostly slaves of loose 
character, as illustrated by many stories,* who constituted the 
gravest menace to the morals of the youth of the age. 3 The 
description of a certain home in al-Kufah during the reign of 
al-Mansur sounds more like that of a cafe chantant, with 
Sail amah al-Zarqa* (the blue-eyed) as its prima donna.* The 
laity had access to wine in the Christian monasteries and the 
special bars conducted mainly by Jews. Christians and Jews 
were the " bootleggers' 1 of the time. 
Baths "Cleanliness is a part of faith" — so runs a Prophetic tradition 

that is still on every lip in Moslem lands. Arabia had no baths 
that we hear of before Muhammad. He himself is represented as 
prejudiced against them and as havirig permitted men to enter 
them for purposes of cleanliness only, each wearing a cloth. In 
the time w e are studying, however, public baths (sing, fiammam) 
had become popular not only for ceremonial ablutions and for 
their salutary effects, but also as resorts of amusement and mere 
luxury. Women were allowed their use on specially reserved 
days Baghdad, according to al-Khat!b, fi boasted in the days of 
al-Muqtadir (908-32) some 27,000 public baths, and in other 
times even 6o,ooo, 6 all of which — like most figures in Arabic 
sources — seem highly exaggerated. Al-Ya*qubi 7 makes the 
number 10,000 not long after the foundation of Baghdad. The 
Moorish traveller ibn-Battutah f 8 who visited Baghdad in 1327, 
found in each of the thirteen quarters composing its west side 
two or three baths of the most elaborate kind, each supplied with 
hot and cold running water. 

Then as now the bath-house comprised several chambers with 
mosaic pavements and marble-lined inner walls clustering round 
a large central chamber. This innermost chamber, crowned by 

* Nawaji, p 38, * Agkanii ioI. xi, pp 98 9, vol. xvui, pp 182-9. 

* Wflshsha', pp 92 seq 

* Aghaniy vol xm, pp 128 scq. Cf. Nuwayn, vol. v, pp 72 scq. 

* Tarikh t \o\ 1, pp 118 19 ■ Ibid p. u^r, 

* Buldan > p. 250, 11 9 10, cf. p. 254, 11. 8-9, • Vol. u, pp 105-7, 


avdome studded with small round glazed apertures for the ad- 
mission of light, was heated by steam rising from a central jet 
of water in the middle of a basin. The outer rooms were used for 
lounging and for enjoying drinks and refreshments. 

Sports, like the fine arts, have throughout history been an P 
appendage more of Indo-European than Semitic civilization. 
Engaging in them involves physical exertion for its own sake, 
which could not very well become a desideratum for the son of 
Arabia with his utilitarian temperament and the warmness of 
the climate. 

Under the caliphate certain indoor games became popular. 
Reference has already been made to a sort of club-house in 
Makkah under the Umayyads provided with facilities for 
playing chess, backgammon and dice. As with several other 
innovations, al-Rashld is credited with being the first 'Abbasid 
caliph to have played and encouraged chess* 1 Chess (An 
shiiranjy ultimately from Sanskrit), originally an Indian game,* 
soon became the favourite indoor pastime of the aristocracy, 
displacing dice. This caliph is supposed to have included among 
his presents to Charlemagne a chess-board, just as in the Crusad- 
ing period the Old Man of the Mountain presented another to 
St, Louis* Among other games played with a board was back- 
gammon (nard) trick-track), also of Indian origin. 3 

Notable in the list of outdoor sports were archery, polo (Jukdn i 
from Pers. chawgan* bent stick), ball and mallets {saxvlajdn^ 
pall-mall, a sort of croquet or hockey), fencing, javelin-throwing 
(jarid), horse-racing and above ail hunting. Among the qualifica- 
tions of a prospective boon companion al-Jaluz s lists ability in 
archery, hunting, playing ball and chess — in all of which the 
Companion may equal his royal master with no fear of affronting 
him. Among the caliphs particularly fond of polo was al- 
Mu'tasim, whose Turkish general, al-Afshln, once refused to play 
against him because he did not want to be against the commander 
of the believers even in a game. 6 References are made to a ball 
.game in which a broad piece of wood (tabtdb) was used. 7 Could 

1 Mas'Qdi, vol. viii, p. 296. * /hid. vol. t, pp. 159-61. * Ibid. pp. 157-8. 
* Cf. ''chicane'*, name given to an old game in Langutdoc and elsewhere pla>cd 
en Joot with a mallet and a ball of hard wood. 

* TzjtV For other qualifications consult Nauap, pp. 25 

* Mlm-al.*Abbas, Athar c?-&waL p. 1 30 

v * Mas'CUli* vol. via, p. 296, 1, 3. Cf. Atkir t p. 159, U. 3-4. 


this be tennis in its rudimentary form? 1 Al-Mas'udi 2 has pre- 
served for us the description of a horse-race at al-Raqqah in 
which a courser of al-RashTd's won first place, to the enthusiastic 
delight of the caliph, who witnessed the event. In the *i^tf 3 we 
find a number of poems in description and honour of prize- 
winning horses. Betting, as we learn from this same source, 
enlivened such races. 

In the 1 Abbasid period, as in the earlier one, hunting was the 
favourite outdoor pastime of caliphs and princes. Al-Amln was 
particularly fond of hunting lions,* and a brother of his met his 
death pursuing wild boars. 5 Both abu-Muslim al-Khurasani and 
al-Mu'tasim were fond of hunting with the cheetah. The 
number of early Arabic books dealing with hunting, trapping 
and falconry testify to the keen interest in these sports. 

Falconry and hawking were introduced into Arabia from 
Persia, as the Arabic vocabulary relating to these sports in- 
dicates. They became particularly favoured in the later period 
of the caliphate 6 and in that of the Crusades. 7 Hunting with 
the falcon (bdz) or sparrow-hawk (bashiq) is still practised in 
Persia, al-' Iraq, Dayr al-Zur and the *Alawite region of Syria in 
practically the same manner as described in the Arabian Nighis. 
For gazelles or antelopes, hares, partridges, wild geese, ducks 
and qaia (a species of grouse), hawks and falcons were employed 
and assisted in the case of big game by dogs. The first thing for 
a Moslem hunter to do after seizing his prey would be to cut its 
throat; otherwise its flesh would be unlawful. 8 Under certain 
conditions the hunting-party would form a circuit Qtaiqah) 
surrounding and closing in on the spot in which the game 
happened to abound. Al-Mu r tasim built a horseshoe-shaped 
wall touching the Tigris at its two extremities and used his 

1 The word "tennis", generally supposed to have come from the French verb 
tenez *= take heed, is probably from "TmnTs", the Arabic name of an Egyptian city 
in the Delta noted in the Middle Ages for its hnen fabrics, which may have been used 
for making tennis balls. Sec Malcolm D. Whitman, Tennis: Origins end Mysteries 
(New York, 1932), pp. 24-32. 

3 Vol. vi, pp. 348*9. 1 Vol. i, pp. 63.5. 

4 Mas'udi, \oh vi, pp. 432-3. * AghSm, vol. ix, p. 97, 1L 27-9. 

* Fthnstyp. 3x5, and ibn-Khalhkan, vol. ii, p. 172, vol. ui, p. 209, mention a 
number of Arabic books on muring and falconry* 

7 For one of the easiest treatments of this subject in Arabic see Usamah ibn- 
Munqidh, Kttdb al-f'tib&r, ed. Hitti (Princeton, 1930), pp. 191-226; tr. Hitti, An 
Arab-Syrian GentUrian and IVamcr (New York, 1929, repnnt Beirut, 1964 
pp 221-54 1 Koran 2 - 16$, 5:4, 16 : 116 


circuit of men to drive the game inside, thus shutting it in 
between the wall and the river. 1 Al-Musta'sim also used the 
circuit technique in his chase, as did the Saljuqs. 2 Among other 
late caliphs al-Mustanjid (1160-70) organized a number of 
regular hunting-parties. Certain caliphs and rulers kept wild 
beasts such as Hons and tigers for striking awe into the hearts of 
\ their subjects and visitors; 3 others had dogs and monkeys for 
pets. A son of al-Muqtadir's vizir, who resided in Cairo and held 
a high position in its government, had for a hobby the collecting 
of serpents, scorpions and other venomous animals, which he 
kept under good care in a special building near his palace.* 

At the head of the social register stood the caliph and his s 
family* the government officials, the scions of the Hashimite 
clan and the satellites of all these groups. In this last class we 
may include the soldiers and bodyguards, the favoured friends 
and boon companions, as well as the clients and servants. 

* The servants were almost all slaves recruited from non- 
- Moslem peoples and captured by force, taken prisoner in time of 

war or purchased in time of peace. Some were negroes, others 
were Turks and still others were white. The white slaves (tnama- 
iffy were mainly Greeks and Slavs, Armenians and Berbers. 
Certain slaves were eunuchs (kkisydn) attached to the service of 
the harem. Others, termed ghtlmdn, who might also be eunuchs, 
were the recipients of special favours from their masters, wore 
rich and attractive uniforms and often beautified and perfumed 
their bodies in effeminate fashion. We read of ghtlman in the 
^reign of al-Rashld; 6 but it was evidently al-Amin who, following 

* Persian precedent, established in the Arabic world the gkilman 
institutionfor the practice of unnatural sexual relations.* A judge 
under al-Ma*mun used four hundred such youths. 7 Poets like 

J abu-Nuwas did not disdain to give public expression to their 
perverted passions and to address amorous pieces of their com- 
position to "beardless young boys". 

The maidens (Jawari) among slaves were also used as singers, 
dancers and concubines, and some of them exerted appreciable 
influence over their caliph masters. Such was dhat-al-Khal (she 

* Fokhri t pp. 73.4. * Atk&r al-Uwal, p. 135. 

* Fckhn t p. 30; *fqd> vol i, p 19S, 11 4 4 Kutubi, vol. i, pp, X34»5* 
^ * Tabari, vol. iii, p. 669, same in ibn-al-Athir, vol. vi, p. 120 

* Tabari, vol. iii, p. 950, copied by ibn-al-Athlr, vol. vi, p. 205. 
T Mas*adi, vol vii, p. 47. 



of the mole), whom al-Rashid had bought for 70,000 dirhams 
and in a fit of jealousy bestowed on one of his male servants. 
Having taken an oath to grant her request on a certain day, no 
matter what the request might be, al-Rashid is said to have 
appointed her husband governor over Faris for seven years. 3 
In order to wean him from another singing-girl to whom he 
became attached, al-RashTd's wife Zubaydah presented her 
husband with ten maidens, one of whom became the mother of 
al-Ma'mun and another of al-Mu'tasim. 2 The legendary story 
of Tawaddud, the beautiful and talented slave girl in Tht 
Thousand and One Nights (nights 437-62) whom al-Rashid 
was willing to purchase for 100,000 dinars after she had passed 
with flying colours a searching test before his savants in medi- 
cine, law, astronomy, philosophy, music and mathematics — to 
say nothing of rhetoric, grammar, poetry, history and the 
Koran — illustrates how highly cultured some of these maids 
must have been. Al-AmhVs contribution consisted in promoting 
a corps of female pages, the members of which bobbed their 
hair, dressed like boys and wore silk turbans. The innovation 
soon became popular with both the higher and the lower classes 
of society. 3 An eye-witness reports that when on a Palm Sunday 
he called on al-Ma*mun he found in his presence twenty Greek 
maidens, all bedecked and adorned, dancing with gold crosses 
on their necks and olive branches and palm leaves in their hands. 
The distribution of 3000 dinars among the dancers brought the 
affair to a grand finale. 4 

An idea of the prevalence of slavery may be obtained from the 
high figures used in enumerating those in the caliphal household. 
The palace of al-Muqtadir (908-32), we are told, housed 11,000 
Greek and Sudanese eunuchs. 6 Al-Mutawakkil, according to 
a report, had 4000 concubines, all of whom shared his nuptial 
bed. 6 On one occasion this caliph received as a present two 
hundred slaves from one of his generals. 7 It was customary for 
governors and generals to send presents, including girls received 
or exacted from among their subjects, to the caliph or vizir, 8 

1 Agh&nu vol xv, p. 80, quoted by Nima>ri, vol. v, pp SS9. 
1 Aghanu \ol. xvx, p 137. 8 Mas'Cdi, vol vui, p 299 

4 Agh&nt, \ol xix, pp 138-9. * Fakhrtt p 352. 

* Mas*udi, vol. vu, p 276. 7 Jbtd \ol vu, p 281. 

1 Ibn-al-Ath!r, vol. vii, pp, 211-12, Taban, vol. ui, p 627, cop ed by lbn al- 
Athlr, vol. vi, p. 86. 

CH.xxyi r ^ *ABBASID SOCIETY 343 

failure to do so was interpreted as a sign of rebellion. Al- 
Ma'mun devised the scheme of sending some of his trusted slaves 
as presents, expecting them to act as spies on the suspect re- 
cipients or to do away with them in case of necessity, 1 

The r commonalty was composed of an upper class bordering 1 
on the aristocracy and comprised litterateurs and belletrists, J 
learned men, artists, merchants, craftsmen and professionals, 
and of a lower class forming the majority of the nation and made 
up of fanners, herdsmen and country folk who represented the 
native population and now enjoyed the status of dhimmis. In 
the following chapter we shall treat of the intellectual class at 
some length. Suffice it to note here that the general stage of 
culture in the period of *Abbasid primacy was by no means low. 

The wide extent of the empire and the high level which 
civilization attained involved extensive international trade. The 
early merchants were Christians, Jews 2 and Zoroastrians, but 
these were later largely superseded by Moslems and Arabs, who 
did not disdain trade as they did agriculture* Such ports as 
Baghdad, al-Basrah, Slraf,* Cairo and Alexandria soon de- 
veloped into centres of active land and maritime commerce. 

Eastward, Moslem traders ventured as far as China, which 
according to Arab tradition was reached from al-Basrah as early 
as the days of the second f Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur.* The 
earliest Arabic source treating of the subject of Arab and Persian 
maritime communication with India and China is a report of 
yoyages by Sulayman al-Tajir (the merchant) and other Moslem 
traders in the third Moslem century. 6 This trade was based on 
silk, the earliest of China's magnificent gifts to the West, and 
usually followed what has been styled "the great silk way"* 
going through Samarqand and Chinese Turkestan, a region less 
; traversed today by civilized man than almost any other part of 
the habitable world. Goods were generally transported by relays; 
few caravans went the whole distance- But diplomatic relations 
were certainly established before the time of Arab traders. 

v ; KVffd, vol. i, p. 196. * Consult ibn-Khurdadhbih, pp. 153-4. 

A town in Persia on the Persian Gulf. The people of Siruf and 'Uman (Mas'udi, 
tou f, pp, 23 1- 2) were among the best- known manners of the early 'Abbasid period. 

, Cf. Marshall Broomhall, Islam tn Chtna (London, J9io)> pp. 5-36. 
* * Sthtki ahTcwarJkh l«V], ed, Langles (Paris, l8u); tr. G. Ferrstnd, Vcyage da 
* ^k**** Sulfymfa en Inde ct en Ckine (Paris, 1922). 
£ 1 n Thomas }? fc Carter* T&* Invention of Printing in Cktna and tts Spread Westward 

^tN^Ywi; 1925)^85^ 


Legend makes Sa'd ibn-abi-Waqqas, the conqueror of Persia, 
the envoy sent by the Prophet to China. Sa'd's "grave* 1 is still 
revered in Canton. Certain inscriptions on the old Chinese monu- 
ments relating to Islam in China are clearly forgeries prompted 
by religious pride. 1 By the mid-eighth century several embassies 
had been exchanged. In the Chinese records of that century the 
aviir al-mt£mimn is called kanmi-mo-mo-ni\ abu-al- f Abbas, the 
first 'Abbasid caliph, A-bo4o-ba\ and Harun, A-lun. In the time 
of these caliphs a number of Moslems settled in China. At first 
such Moslems appear under the name Ta-shth 2 and later under 
the title Hut-Hut (Muhammadans). 3 The first European mention 
of Saracens in China appears to be that of Marco Polo. 4 It was 
also Moslem traders who carried Islam into the islands that in 
1949 formed the United States of Indonesia. 

Westward, Moslem merchants reached Morocco and Spain. 
A thousand years before de Lesseps an Arab caliph, Harun, 
entertained the idea of digging a canal through the Isthmus of 
Suez. 5 Arab Mediterranean trade, however, never rose to great 
prominence. The Black Sea was likewise inhospitable to it, 
though in the tenth century brisk land trade is noticed with the 
peoples of the Volga regions to the north. But the Caspian Sea, 
because of its proximity to the Persian centres and the pros- 
perous cities of Samarqand and Bukhara with their hinterland, 
was the scene of some commercial intercourse, Moslem mer- 
chants carried with them dates, sugar, cotton and woollen 
fabrics, steel tools and glassware; they imported, among other 
commodities, spices, camphor and silk from farther Asia, and 
ivory, ebony and negro slaves from Africa. 

An idea of the fortunes amassed by the Rothschilds and 
Rockefellers of the age may be gained from the case of the 
Baghdad jeweller ibn-al-Ja^as, who remained wealthy after 
al-Muqtadir had confiscated 16,000,000 dinars of his property, 
and became the first of a family of distinguished jewel mer- 
chants.* Certain Basrah merchants whose ships carried goods to 
distant parts of the world had an annual income of more than a 

1 See Paul Pclhot in Journal anattque (191 3), vol n, pp. 177-91. 

* Prom Pahlawi Tajik % modem Tdzt t Arab. The term is evidently a Fersianited 
form of T&yyi\ an Arab tnbe. 

8 Consult Isaac Mason in Journal of the North-Chtna Branch of the Royal 
Asiatic Society, vol Ix (1929), pp. 42*78 

* For Moslem settlements in Korea (al-Shila) see ibn Khurdadhbih, pp 70, 1?0« 

* Mos'Odi, \ol iv, pp. 98-9. * Kutubi. vol. i, p. 177. 

d. XSVU^^; 1 f ABBASID ^SOCIETY , 345 

million jdirhams each/An uneducated miller of al~Ba§rah and 
.Baghdad could afford to distribute as daily alms among the poor 
a hundred dinars^ and was later appointed by al-MuHasim as his 
vizir} In Slraf the home of the average merchant cost over ten 
'thousand dinars, some over thirty thousand dinars; and many 
maritime traders were worth 4,000^00 dinars each. 2 Some of 
these Siraf merchants "spent their lives on the water", and al- 
IstakhrF heard of one who had spent forty years on board ship. 

No commercial activity could have reached such dimensions 
had it not rested on extensive home industry and agriculture. 
Hand Industry flourished in various parts of the empire. In 
Western Asia it centred chiefly in the manufacture of rugs, 
tapestry, silk, cotton and woollen fabrics, satin, brocade (dfbdf), 
sofa (from Ar. fuffah) and cushion covers, as well as other 
articles of furniture and kitchen utensils. The many looms of 
Persia ^and al-*Iraq turned out carpets and textiles maintained 
at a high standard by distinctive marks, Ai-Musta'in's mother 
had a" rug specially ordered for her at a cost of 130,000,000 
,dirhams, bearing figures of all sorts of birds in gold which had 
ruhies and other precious stones for eyes. 4 A quarter in Baghdad 
named after *Attab t an Umayyad prince who was its most 
distinguished resident, gave its name to a striped fabric, *attabi? 
first manufactured there in the twelfth century. The fabric was 
imitated by the Arabs in Spain and under the trade name tabi 
became popular in France, Italy and other lands of Europe. 
The term survives in "tabby", applied to streaked or marked 
;cafs. Al~Kufah produced the silk and partly silk kerchiefs for 
the head that are still worn under the name kufiyak. Tawwaj, 
Fasa and other towns of Faris boasted a number of high-class 
'factories where carpets, embroideries, brocades and robes of 
iionour — a mark of distinction in the East — were manufactured 
&st ? for the use of the royalty. 6 Such products were known as 
ffrdz (from Pers.) and bore the name or cipher of the sultan or 
! caliph embroidered on them. In Tustar and al-Sus in Khuzistan 7 
"(ancient 'Susiana) were a number of factories famous for the 

I ^J?aUr?\ pp. 32* -2, 
r * ? !?takhrt, pp/127, 139; ibn^awqal, p. 198; Maqdisx, p. 426. 

. " * « Ibshihi, vol. i, p. 144. 

* " 4 .Mentioned in Maqdisi, p. 323, 1. 20; ibn^awqal, p. 261, 1. 13; Yaqut, ButeHn. 
vol.M k p. 822, J. 22 (where it h misspelt). 

Ftftldin, p, 153 Cf. JMaqdisi, pp. 442-3. T Maqdisi, pp. 402, 40?* 9. 


embroidery of damask 1 figured with gold and for curtains made 
of spun silk (khazz)* Their camel- and goat-hair fabrics as well as 
their spun-silk cloaks were widely known. Shlraz yielded striped 
woollen cloaks, also gauzes and brocades. Under the name of «• 
"taffeta" European ladies of the Middle Ages bought m their 
native shops the Persian silken cloth tdftah. Khurasan and 
Armenia were famous for their spreads, hangings and sofa and 
cushion covers. In Central Asia, that great emporium of the 
early Middle Ages, Bukhara was especially noted for its prayer- 
rugs. A complete conception of the development of industry and 
trade in Transoxiana may be gained from the list of exports 
from the various towns given by al-Maqdisr. 2 soap, carpets, 
copper lamps, pewter ware, felt cloaks, furs, amber, honey, 
falcons, scissors, needles, knives, swords, bows, meats, Slavonic 
and Turkish slaves, etc. Tables, sofas, lamps, chandeliers, vases, 
earthenware and kitchen utensils were also made in Syria and 
Egypt* The Egyptian fabrics termed dtmydtt (after Dimyat), 
dabiqi (after Dabiq) and ttnntsi (after Tinnls) 3 were world- 
renowned and imitated in Persia. The ancient industrial arts of 
Pharaonic days survived in an attenuated form in the manu- 
factures of the Copts. 

The glass of Sidon, Tyre and other Syrian towns, a survival of 
the ancient Phoenician industry which after the Egyptian was the 
oldest glass industry in history, was proverbial for its clarity and 
thinness * In its enamelled and variegated varieties Syrian glass as 
a result of the Crusades became the forerunner of the stained glass 
in the cathedrals of Europe. Glass and metal vases of Syrian 
workmanship were in great demand as articles of utility and 
luxury. Sconces of glass bearing enamelled inscriptions in 
various colours hung in mosques and palaces. Damascus was the 
centre of an extensive mosaic and qasham industry, Qdshdni* 
(colloquial qishdm, qdshi) % a name derived from ICashan 8 in 
Media, was given to square or hexagonal glazed tiles, sometimes 
figured with conventional flowers and used in exterior and 

1 This fabric was originally made in Damascus, whence the name. 

* Pp 323 6 

5 YaqGt, vol ii, pp 603, 548, vol. i, p 882, Maqdisi, pp 201, 433, II 16-17, 443, 
1. 5 Sec below, p 631. 
4 Tha'ahbi, Lata* if, p 95 

* Mentioned in ibn BaUGtah, vol. i, p. 415, vol. u, pp 46, 130, 225, 297, vol. m, 
P 79 

* Ar« Qashanj Yaqut, Bulddn> vol iv, p 15. 

inferior decoration of buildings. The predominant colours were 
indigo blue, turquoise blue, green and less often red and yellow* 
The ar^ as ancient as the Elamites and Assyrians, survived in 
Damascus until the latter part of the eighteenth century. 
* " Worthy of special note is the manufacture of writing-paper, 
introduced in the middle of the eighth century into Samarqand 
from China. 1 The paper of Samarqand, which was captured by 
ihe Moslems in 704, was considered matchless. 3 Before the close 
of that century Baghdad saw its first paper-mill. Gradually others 
for making paper followed: Egypt had its factory about 900 or 
earlier, Morocco about 1100, Spain about 11 50; and various 
kinds of paper, white and coloured, were produced. Al-Mu* tasim, 
credited with opening new soap and glass factories in Baghdad, 
Samarra and other towns, is said to have encouraged the paper 
industry. The oldest Arabic paper manuscript that has come 
down to us is one on tradition entitled Gliarib al-Hadith y by 
abu-'Ubayd al-Qasim ibn-Sallam (f 837), dated dhu-al-Qa'dah, 
A.H. 252 (November 13-December 12, 866) and preserved in the 
teyden University Library. 3 The oldest by a Christian author 
is a theological treatise by abu-Qurrah 4 (f ca. 820) dated Rabf I, 
*A.H. 264 (Nov. n -Dec. io, 877) and preserved in the British 
Museum. From Moslem Spain and from Italy, in the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries, the manufacture of paper finally worked its 
way into Christian Europe, where with the later discovery of 
printingfromrnovabletype (1450-5 5) it made possible the measure 
of popular education which Europe and America now enjoy. 
; -The jewellers art also had its day. Pearls, sapphires, rubies, 
emeralds and diamonds were favourites with the royalty; 
turquoise, carneliari and onyx with the lower classes. One of 
the best-known gems in Arab history is the big ruby, once owned 
by several "Persian monarchs, on which Harun inscribed his 
name after acquiring it for 40,000 dinars. 5 The ruby was so large 
and brilliant that 11 if it were put in the night-time in a dark 
room it would shine like a lamp", Harun*s sister, as we learned 

\" \ConsultTriedrich Hfrth, Chine sis eke Studicn (Munich and Leipzig, 1890), vol i, 
JPP- See below, p. 474. Paper money, also of Chinese origin, was printed 
ia Chinese and Arabic at Tibriz, one of the earliest places in the Moslem uorld 
with a record of block printing. * Thal'ahbi, p. 126; Maqdisi, p. 326, II 3-4. 

I * William Wright, The Pct&ographieat Society, Oriental Series (London, 

* * Theodoras abu Kurra,i?e Cultu Imaginum, ed.and tr.I« Arendzcn (Bonn, 1S97). 

* MasMdt. vol vn n CF PAhh+t rm it<x-f TnKari, Vol. ill, p. 602, 1. 12, 


before, wore jewels on her head-dress and his wife had them ' 
on her shoes. Yahya ibn-Khalid the Barmakid once offered-' 
7,000,000 dirhams to a Baghdad merchant for a jewel-box made 
of precious stones, but the offer was refused. 1 Al-Muktafi is said 
to have left 20,000,000 dinars 1 worth of jewels and perfumes. 5 - 
At a gorgeous royal banquet given by al-Mutawakkil, and 
considered together with al-Ma'miin's wedding "two occasions' 
that have no third in Islam", 3 tables and trays of gold studded 
with gems were used. Even ibn-Khaldun, who claims that the 
'Abbasids could not have indulged in luxurious modes of living, 
accepts the extraordinary display of gold and jewellery at aU 
Mamun's marriage ceremony.* According to al-Mas'udi,* « 
al-Mu'tazz (866-9), tne thirteenth 'Abbasid caliph, was the first 
to appear on horseback in gilded armour on a golden saddle, all 
caliphs before him having used silver decorations. One of the 
last caliphs to possess much jewellery was ai-Muqtadir (908-32), 
who confiscated the property of the founder of the richest ' 
jewellery house in Baghdad 6 and came into possession of the 
famous red ruby of Harun, as well as the equally famous "unique, 
pearl" weighing three mithqals (miskal) and other gems, all of" 
which he squandered. 7 

The leading mineral resources of the empire which made the ^ 
jeweller's industry possible included gold and silver from 
Khurasan, which also yielded marble and mercury; 8 rubies, 
lapis lazuli and azurite from Transoxiana; 5 lead and silver from 
Karman; 10 pearls from al-Bahrayn; u turquoise from Naysabur, 
whose mine in the latter half of the tenth century was farmed, 
out for 758,720 dirhams a year; 12 carnelian from San'a*; 13 and iron 
from Mt. Lebanon. 14 Other mineral resources included kaolin 
and marble from Tibrlz, antimony from the vicinity of Isbahan, 16 
bitumen and naphtha from Georgia, marble and sulphur from 

1 Tabari, vol. iii, p. 703. * Tha'alibi, p. 72. * Ibid. pp. 7a»3. 

* Muqaddcmah, p. t$, 11. 20*^., pp. 144*5. 

* Vol. vii, pp. 401-2, quoted by ibn-KhaldOn, Muqaddamch, p. 15. 

* Above, p. 344. 

7 Fakhri, p. 353. The "unique pearl*' is also mentioned by ibn-^awqal, p. 3$, 
1. 7. Cf. Maqdisi, p. 101, 1. 16. « Maqdisi, p. 326. 

* Ibid, p. 303. "Lazuli", as vreli as "a2ure", comes through Latin from Ar. 
ideaward and ultimately from Pers. tacfiuzuard. 

10 Ibn-al-Faqlh, p. 206. 11 Maqdisi, p. 101. 14 Ibid. p. 341, n. 

» Ibid. p. lot. 11 Ibid. p. 184, 1, 3, 

1S T^takhri, p. 203; Tha'alibi, Lafcfif, p. no.Ar.&^Z, perhaps "galena'*, consult 
H . E. Stapleton tt al. in Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. viii ( 1927), P« 35 2 ' 

&t> Xrfvi 4 *ABBASID SOCIETY 349 

Syria-Palestine, 1 asbestos from Transoxiana 2 and mercury, pitch 
and tar from Farghanah. 3 

: , Agriculture received great impetus under the early f Abbasids a&i 
because their capital itself lay in a most favoured spot, the lure 
alluvial plain commonly known under the name of al-Sawad; 
because they realized that farming was the chief source of the 
state income; and because the tilling of the land was almost 
wholly in the hands of the native inhabitants, whose status was 
somewhat improved under the new regime. Deserted farms and 
ruined villages in different parts of the empire were gradually 
rehabilitated and restored. The lower region of the Tigris* 
Euphrates valley, the richest in the whole empire after Egypt 
and the traditional site of the garden of Eden, was the object of 
special attention on the part of the central government. Canals 
from the Euphrates, either old and now re-opened or else entirely 
new, formed a "veritable network"* 4 The first great canal, 
called Nahr 'Isa after a relative of al-Mansur who had re- 
excavated it, connected the Euphrates at al-Anbar in the north- 
west with the Tigris at Baghdad. One of the main branches of 
the Nahr *Isa was the Sarah. The second great transverse canal 
was the Nahr Sarsar, which entered the Tigris above al-Mada'in. 
The third was the Nahr al-Malik ("river of the king"), which 
flowed into the Tigris below al-Mada in. 5 Lower down the two 
rivers came the Nahr Kutha and the Great Sarah, 6 which threw 
off a number of irrigation channels. Another canal, the Dujayl 
(diminutive of Dijlah, the Tigris), which originally connected 
the Tigris with the Euphrates, had become silted up by the tenth 
century, and the name was given to a new channel, a loop canal, 
which started from the Tigris below al-QadisIyah and rejoined 
it farther south after sending off a number of branches. 7 Other 
less important canals included the Nahr al-Silah dug in Wasit 
by al-lffahdi. s Arab geographers speak of caliphs "digging" or 
"opening" "rivers"* when in most cases the process involved 
was one of rt-digging or re-opening canals that had existed since 

c , 1 Maqdfct, p. 1 84. * Ibid. p. 303, 11. 13-15. * Ibn-Hawqal, p. 362. 
s « ItfaJ&n; p. S5, 1 3; ibn-Hawqai, p. 166, 1.2. 

f * For these canals sec I$takhri, pp. S4-5; same m ibnOJa?vqal, pp. 165-6; Maqdist, 
1» %Ui Khatfb, ?<tfikk t vol i, pp. 91, jij $£?.} Gvty JLc Strange, "Description of 
Mcsopotarah and Baghdad, written about the year 900 a.d. by Ibn-Serapion* 1 
{S\xht&h)J<^rficI t ^alAstorjc Society (1895), pp. 255-315. 
* Uqut, voh in, pp. 377-$. * lstalchn, pp. 77-8; Yaqut, vol. ii, p. 555. 

Bidadhuri, p. 2$t«HittL p. 4*1: Oud&raah. P. 241. 


Babylonian days. In aVIraq as well as Egypt the task consisted 
mainly in keeping the ancient systems in order. Even before the 
first World War, when the Ottoman government commissioned 
Sir William Willcocks to study the irrigation problem of al-'Irgq, 
his report stressed the necessity of clearing the old watercourses 
rather than constructing new ones. x It should be noted, however 
that the face of the alluvial Sawad has greatly changed since 
'Abbasid days and that both the Tigris and the Euphrates have 
considerably shifted their courses in historical times. 

The staple crops of al-'Iraq consisted of barley and wheat, 
rice, dates, sesame, cotton and flax. Especially fertile was the 
alluvial plain to the south, al -Sawad, where quantities of fruit 
and vegetables, both of the cold and the hot regions, were 
grown. Nuts, oranges, egg-plants, sugar-cane, lupines and such 
flowers as roses and violets were produced in abundance, 

Khurasan vied with al-'Iraq and Egypt as a rich agricultural 
country. A review of the revenue sheets discussed above 8 would 
indicate that it yielded one of the largest kharajs of the empire 
Politically it embraced, at least for some time, Transoxiana and 
Sijistan, and was therefore a great source of man-power as well 
No wonder, then, that we hear it referred to in the presence of 
al-Ma*mun as "the whole empire'*. 3 

The land round Bukhara, in the judgment of Arab geo-* 
graphers, was, especially under the Samanids in the 900*5, a * 
veritable garden. 4 Here, between Samarqand and Bukhara, lay 
the Wadi al-Sughd (the valley of Sogdiana), one of the "four 
earthly paradises", the other three being the Shi'b Bawwan (gap 
of Bawan in Fans), the gardens of the Ubullah Canal, extending 
from al-Basrah to the south-east, 5 and the orchards (gMfak) of 
Damascus. 6 In these gardens flourished several varieties of 
fruits, vegetables and flowers, such as dates, apples, apricots,' 
peaches, plums, lemons, oranges, figs, grapes, olives, almonds, 
pomegranates, egg-plants, radishes, cucumbers, roses and basil < 
(rayfjan). Water-melons were exported from Khwarizm to the 

1 William Willcocks, Irrigation of Mesopotamia (London, 1917), pp. xvu sco y 
II Stq* 

* P. 3«. * YaV>K vol ri, p. 555, L 4. 
4 l?takhn, pp. 305 sco. t copied by ibn-Hawqal, pp 355 sea. 

* I$taWhn, p 81; same in ibn-IJawqal, p 160, Maqdtsi, pp. 1x7-18. 

* Yaqut, vol. i, p. 751, vol. w, p 394; cf* vol j, p 97, II 15-J6 

* for U>mo1ogy sec below, p. 528, n 6 The plant itself was a mine of CHns*„ 

cn. xxvi ' " , k 'ABBASI0 SOCIETY r 351 

courts of al-Ma v murt and al-Wathiq in lead moulds packed with 
ice, such fruit would sell in Baghdad for seven hundred dirhams 
each. 1 In fact most of the fruit trees and vegetables grown at 
present in Western Asia were known at the time, with the 
exception of mangoes, potatoes, tomatoes and similar plants 
introduced in recent times from the New World and distant 
European colonies. The orange tree, allied to the citron and 
lemon, had its native habitat in India or Malay, whence it spread 
at this time into Western Asia, the adjoining lands of the 
Mediterranean basin and eventually through the Arabs in Spain 
into Europe. 2 The sugar-cane plantations of Fans and al- 
Ahwaz, 3 with their noted refineries, were about this time 
followed by similar ones on the Syrian coast, from which place 
the Crusaders later introduced the cane and the sugar 4 into 
Europe. Thus did this sweet commodity, probably of Bengaiese 
origin, which has since become an indispensable ingredient in 
the daily food of civilized man, work its way westward. 

Horticulture was not limited to fruits and vegetables. The 
cultivation of flowers was also promoted, not only in small home 
gardens round fountains musical with jetting, splashing water, 
but on a large scale for commercial purposes. The preparation 
of perfumes or essences from roses, water-lilies, oranges, violets 
and the like flourished in Damascus, Shlraz, Jur and other 
towns. The whole district of Jur, or Flruzabad, in Fans was 
noted for its attar (Ar. t ttr) of red roses. 5 Rose-water from 
Jur. was exported as far as China eastward and al-Maghrib 
westward. 6 Paris included in its kharaj 30,000 bottles of the 
essence of red roses, which were sent annually to the caliph in 
Baghdad. 7 Sabur (Pers» Shapur) and its valley produced ten 
world-famous varieties of perfumed oils, or unguents, extracted 
from the violet, water-lily, narcissus, palm flower, iris, white lily, 
^myrtle, sweet marjoram, lemon and orange flowers. 8 Among 
^ J Tha'ahta.p. 129. 

- * This h the hitter variety, Ar. ahu fu/ayr Eng. "orange" comes through Sp, 
from. Ar ftarcxj, from Pers. nor eng. "Lemon" is Ar. iaymun> Pers ilmun (see 
' below, p 665). 
v * Tha'abbi, p. 107. 
~ k Au su&ar} **candy*' comes from Ar. qandah, qandt, which is Pers. qand 
"Cane** is also of Semitic origin corresponding to Ar. qandk, reed, but was sepa- 
rately introduced into European languages. 

* In Syria red roses arc still called werdjun. 

- 5*;^?^* P' a, 3i I?takhri > pp. 152-3. 

^ Thaahbi. pp jo^id. Mnqdisi, p 443. 


these the violet extract was the most popular in the Moslem 
world, as the following words put in the mouth of the Prophet 
would indicate! "The excellence of the extract of violets above 
all other extracts is as the excellence of me above all the rest of 
creation". 1 

Among flowers the rose seems to have been the favourite. 
In the opinion of the cultured slave girl Tawaddud, whose ideas 
may be taken as an index of popular opinion between the tenth 
and twelfth centuries, roses and violets are the best scents; 
pomegranate and citron the best fruits; and endive the best 
vegetable. 2 The popular esteem in which the rose is held found 
expression in a tradition ascribed to Muhammad: "The white 
rose was created from my sweat on the night of the nocturnal 
journey [infra;], the red rose from the sweat of Gabriel and the 
yellow rose from that of al-Buraq". 3 With the words "I am the 
king of sultans and the rose is the king of the sweet-scented 
flowers; each of us therefore is worthy of the other", al-Muta- 
wakkil is said to have so monopolized the cultivation of roses for 
his own enjoyment that in his time that flower could be seen 
nowhere except in his palace. 4 

The rose and the violet had a rival in the myrtle. "Adam 
was hurled down from Paradise with three things", claims a 
Prophetic tradition: "a myrtle tree, which is the chief of sweet- 
scented plants in the world; an ear of wheat, which is the chief 
food of the world; and a date, which is the chief of the fruits of 
this world.'" 5 Other highly desired flowers were the narcissus, 
gillyflower, jasmine, poppy and safflower. 

As an index of interest in agriculture mention might be made 
of the several books on plants, including translations from Greek, 
listed in the Fthrtst? the few books on attar 7 and the spurious 
work of ibn-Wahshiyah entitled al-Ftldhah al-Nabaiiyah. 
[>himm»s The agricultural class, who constituted the bulk of the popu- 
^hnstiam j at j on Q f empire and its chief source of revenue, were the 
original inhabitants of the land, now reduced to the position of 

1 Suyuti, &usn t vol, it, p. 242. 

* Alj Laylah wa Laylah {Thousand and One Ntghis) t no. 453. CL nos 864, S65. 

* Suyuti, tfusn, vol. u, p. 236, 

* Nawaji, p 235, Suyutx, \ol. n, p. 236. 

* Suyu^j, vol. ii, p 245. Consult Edward W. Lane, The Thousand and Ont 
Nights, vol. 1 (London, 1839), pp 219 sf$> (in n 22 to ch ut). 

* P. 78, 11. 12, 23, p 79, L 3, P S3, 1. 16, p 252, U 9 10. 

* fthrtst, p 317. 

cn, xxvi 



dhimmis. The Arab considered it below his dignity to engage 
in agricultural pursuits. Originally Scripruraries, viz. Christians, 
Jews and Sabians, the dhimmis had their status widened, as we 
learned before, to include Zoroastrians, Manichaeans, yarran 
Sabians and others — all of whom were now treated on a par 
with those with whom a compact for religious tolerance had been 
made. In country places and on their farms these dhimmis clung 
to their ancient cultural patterns and preserved their native 
languages: Aramaic and Syriac in Syria and al- c Iraq, Iranian in 
Persia and Coptic in Egypt. Many of those who embraced Islam 
moved to the cities. 

Even in cities Christians and Jews often held important 
financial, clerical and professional positions. This often led to 
open jealousy on the part of the Moslem populace and found 
expression in official enactments. But most of this discriminating 
legislation remained "ink on paper" and was not consistently 

The first caliph, as we have seen, to order Christians and Jews 
to don distinctive dress and to exclude them from public offices 
was the pious Umayyad, 'Umar II, whose pact has often been 
erroneously ascribed to *Umar I, Among the 'Abbasids Harun 
was evidently the first to re-enact some of the old measures. In 
807 he ordered all churches in border-lands, together with those 
erected subsequent to the Moslem conquest, demolished and 
commanded members of the tolerated sects to wear the prescribed 
garb. 1 The stringent regulations against dhimmis culminated in 
the time of al-Mutawakkil, who m 850 and 854 decreed that 
Christians and Jews should affix wooden images of devils to 
their houses, level their graves even with the ground, wear 
outer garments of honey-colour, i.e. yellow, put two honey- 
coloured patches on the wear of their slaves, one sewn on the 
back and the other on the front, and ride only on mules and 
asses with ivooden saddles marked by two pomegranate-like 
balls on the cantle* It was on account of this distinctive dress 
that the dhimmi acquired the epithet "spotted". 3 One other 
grave disability under which the dhimmis laboured was a ruling 
of the Moslem jurists of the period that the testimony of a 

1 TabAn, vol m, pp 712-13; lbn-al Athir, \ol vx, p. 141. 
{ 1 fabari, vol iii, pp 1389 93, 14 iq. 

* Cf J&ta, Bajatt, vol. i. p, 79, 31. 27-8. 


Christian or a Jew could not be accepted against a Moslem; for 
the Jews and Christians had once corrupted the text of their 
scripture, as the Koran charges, 1 and therefore could no more be 
trusted. The last cahph to renew in an aggravated form the hostile 
measures against dhimmis was the Fatimid al-ft akim (996-1021), 
That in spite of these restrictions the Christians under the 
caliphs enjoyed on the whole a large measure of toleration may 
be inferred from several episodes A number of religious debates 
similar to those staged in the presence of Mu'awiyah and 
*Abd-al-Mahk were held in the presence of the 'Abbasids. The 
text of an apology for Christianity delivered in 781 by Timothy, 
patriarch of the Nestorians, before al-Mahdi has come down to 
us, 2 as has also the famous treatise by al-Kindi 3 professing to be 
a contemporary account of a controversy held about 819 before 
al-Ma'mun on the comparative merits of Islam and Christianity. 
The religious discussions of 'Ali al-Tabari (f ca. 854) in his 
Kttdb al-Din %o~aUDawlah t * a semi-official defence and exposi- 
tion of Islam written at the court with the assistance of ai- 
Mutawakkil, is temperate, singularly free from heat and passion 
and abounds in references to the Bible, evidently the Syriac 
version or its early Arabic translation. At the time ai-Nadlm 
wrote his Fthrist (988) both the Old and New Testaments were 
already in existence in Arabic in more than one version. 5 In fact 
we are told that a certain Ahmad ibn-' Abdullah ibn-Salam had 
translated the Bible into Arabic as early as the days of Harun. 6 
There is evidence to show that even in the latter part of the 
seventh century parts of the Bible had been rendered into 
Arabic either from Syriac or from the Greek Septuagint. Al- 
Tabari 7 notes under A.H. 61 that 'Abdullah, son of the con- 
queror of Egypt, had read the Book of Daniel. But the first 
important Arabic translation of the Old Testament was that of 
Sa'id al-Fayyumi (Saadia Gaon, 882-942) of Egypt, which has 
remained to this day the version for all Arabic-speaking Jews. 
These translations aroused the interest of Moslems in the contro- 
versial points, and we find al-Jahiz (t 869) among the many 
1 Surs 2 70, 5 16-18. 

* A. Mingana in Bulletin of the John R} lands Library, vol 12 (Manchester, 
1928}, pp 137 29S 

3 Risalat *Abd al-MasIfi (London, 1870), 2nd cd (London, 1885) 

* Ed. A. Mmguna (Cairo, 1923), tr. Mmgana, The Book of Religion and Empire 
(Manchester, 1922) * Fthnst, p 23, 

* IM* p 22 This may have been a partial translation 7 Vol u» p. 399 


who penned answers to Christians. We even read of Christian 
vizirs in the latter half of the ninth century, such as 'Abdun ibn- 
Sa'id, in whose honour a judge in Baghdad rose up in public, 
thus receiving the disapproval of the spectators. 1 AJ-Muttaqi 
(940-44) had a Christian vizir * as did one of the Buwayhids. 5 
Al-Mu'tadid (892-902) had a Christian as head of the war 
office. 4 Such Christian high officials received the usual marks of 
honour, for we find certain Moslems objecting to kissing their 
hands. Most of the personal physicians of the caliphs, as will be 
remembered, were members of the Nestorian church. A recently 
published charter of protection granted to the Ncstorians in 1138 
byal-Muktafi 5 throws fresh light on thecordial relations between 
official Islam and official Christianity in that period. 

The Christian subjects of the 'Abbasid caliphs belonged fori 
the most part to the two Syrian churches considered heterodox 1 
and commonly called Jacobite and Nestorian, with the Nes- 
torians predominant in al-*Iraq> The Nestorian patriarch or 
catholicos (corrupted into An jdthiltq ) jdthaizq) had the right 
of residence in Baghdad, a privilege which the Jacobites had 
always sought in vain* Round the patriarchate styled Dayr al- 
lium 6 (the monastery of the Romans, i.e. Christians) there grew 
in Baghdad a Christian quarter called Dar (abode of) al-Rum. 
Under the catholicos* jurisdiction there flourished seven metro- 
politans, including those of al-Basrah, al-Maw§il and Naslbln 
(Nisibis), each with two or three bishops under him. The patriarch- 
elect received his investiture from the caliph, by whom he was 
recognized as the official head of all Christians in the empire. 
In 912-13 the catholicos succeeded in making the caliph prevent 
the Jacobite patriarch, whose seat was Antioch, from transferring 
his residence to Baghdad. 7 The main political charge against 
the Jacobites was that they sympathized with the Byzantines. 
But the Jacobites had a monastery in Baghdad 8 and a metro- 

* Vaqut, Udcba\ vol. ii, p, 259. 

* Al-Tanukhi, al-Faraj b<?d al-Shiddah (Cairo, 1904), vol. ii, p. 149. 

* Na$t ibn-Hlr&n was the Buwayhid vttir. See MisUwnyh, Tajanb cU Umarn, 
*d> Margoiiouth, vol. ii (Cairo afld Oxford, 1915), pp. 40$, 412. 

* $abi\ Wusar&\ p. 95^ 

* A. Mingana in Bulletin John. Rylands Library^ vol. 10 (1926), pp. 127*33. 

* Yaqut, Bulddn t vol. ii, p. 662. 

* On the Monophysite and Jacobite patriarchs see Assemani (al-Sam'Sni), 
Bibticthtcc OntniAlis, vol, it (Rome, 1721), s * 

* Y&qfct, vol. «, p. 662* L 18, 



politan seat in Takrit, not far from the capital. In all, Yaqut 1 
lists half a dozen monasteries in east Baghdad, apart from those 
on the west side. 

The Copts of Egypt, as we have noted before, belonged to the 
Jacobite communion. The Nubian church was likewise Jacobite 
and acknowledged the primacy of the patriarch of Alexandria. 
Along the narrow coast west of Egypt, Christianity had a 
following among the Berbers, but the majority of the inland 
population had their local cults corresponding to their tribal 

One of the most remarkable features of Christianity under the 
caliphs was its possession of enough vitality to make it an 
aggressive church, sending its missionaries as far as India and 
China. Al-NadTm 2 reports an interesting interview which he 
himself held with one such missionary returned from China, 
whom he met in the Christian quarter 3 of Baghdad. The famous 
stela at Sian Fu, China, erected in 78 r to commemorate the 
names and labours of sixty-seven Nestorian missionaries, 4 
together with the affiliation of the Christian church in India, 
that of the "Christians of St. Thomas" in Malabar on the south- 
west coast, with the patriarchate in Baghdad, bear witness to 
the evangelistic zeal of the East Syrian Church under the Mos- 
lems. It is also recognized that the existing characters of Mongol 
and Manchu are lineal descendants of the original Uighurian 
forms, which were certainly derived from the Syriac alphabet as 
used by the Nestorians. 

As one of the "protected" peoples the Jews fared on the whole 
even better than the Christians, and that in spite of several 
unfavourable references in the Koran. 5 They were fewer and did 
not therefore present such a problem. In 985 al-Maqdisi 6 found 
most of the money-changers and bankers in Syria to be Jews, 
and most of the clerks and physicians Christians. Under several 
caliphs, particularly al-Mu c tadid (892-902), we read of more 
than one Jew in the capital and the provinces assuming respon- 
sible state positions. In Baghdad itself the Jews maintained a 

1 Under dayr. 1 P. 349. 

* Var a! R 'urn , which Flugel, the editor, la his notes erroneously mikes Con- 

4 Consult P. V. Sacki, The Nestorian Documents and Rchcs tn Chtna (Tokyo, 
1937). PP 10 

* Surs 2 1 70-73; 5 : 16, 66-9. * P. 1S3. 

cir.xxvz - 'ABBASID SOCIETY 357 

good-sized colony 1 which continued to flourish until the fall of the 
city. Benjamin of Tudela, 2 who visited the colony about I i6g t 
found it in possession of ten rabbinical schools and twenty-three* 
synagogues; the principal one, adorned with variegated marble, 
was richly ornamented with gold and silver* Benjamin depicts 
in glowing colours the high esteem in which the head of the 
Babylonian Jews was held as a descendant of David and 
head of the community (Aram, resh galutha t prince of cap- 
tivity 4 or exilarch), in fact as chief of ail Jews owing allegiance 
to the Baghdad caliphate. Just as the catholicos exercised a 
certain measure of jurisdiction over all Christians in the empire, 
so did the exilarch over his co-religionists. The "prince of cap- 
tivity" seems to have lived in affluence and owned gardens, 
houses and rich plantations. On his way to an audience with 
the caliph he appeared dressed in embroidered silk, wore a 
white turban gleaming with gems and was accompanied by 
a retinue of horsemen. Ahead of him marched a herald 
calling out: "Make way before our lord the son of David! " 

The Mandeans, 5 the genuine Sabians 6 of Arabic writers, were , 
a Judaeo-Christian sect who also called themselves Nasoraie 
d y Yahya> the Nasoreans 7 (i.e. the observants) of St. John, and 
therefore became erroneously known to the modern world as the 
Christians of St. John (the Baptist). The Mandeans practised 
the rite of baptism after birth, before marriage and on various 
other occasions. They inhabited the lower plains of Babylonia, and 
as a sect they go back to the first century after Christ. Palestine 
was perhaps the original home of this and other baptist com- 
munities. Their language, Mandaic, is a dialect of Aramaic 
and its script bears close resemblance to the Nabataean and 
Palmyrene. Mentioned thrice in the Koran, these Babylonian 
§abians acquired a dhimmi status and were classified by 

1 Yaqut, vol. iv, p. 1045. 

* The Itinerary o/JRabbi Benjamin of Tudeta, tr. and ed, A. Asher, vol. i (London 
and Berlin, 1S40), pp. 100-105. 

* Other contemporaneous travellers make the number only three, which is more 

* Some of the Baghdad Jews might v. ell have been the descendants of those 
carried into exile by Nebuchadnezzar in 507 and 586 B.C. 

* This word is derived from Aramaic yada\ to know; the sect was Gnostic. 

* Ar. $6bCck t or $ab?un t sing. Sch* from Mandau (Aram ) Sdbt\ immerser; 
no etymological connection uuh Sa&a\ the name of the great people in south- 
western Arabia, 

1 Wrongly rendered Nazarenes, i.e. Christians, 


Moslems as a "protected" sect* According to the Fihrist 1 they 
included the mughtasilah (those who wash themselves), who 
occupied the marshes of lower al-*Iraq. The community still 
survives to the number of five thousand in the swampy lands 
near al-Basrah. Living in the neighbourhood of rivers is necessi- 
tated by the fact that immersion in flowing water is an essential, 
and certainly the most characteristic, feature of their religious 
practice. In modern Baghdad the Sabians are represented by 
the so-called 'Amarah silversmiths, makers of the mtna 2 work. 

Quite distinct from these Babylonian Sabians were the 
pseudo-Sabians of rlarran. 3 Arab writers confuse the two. The 
rjarran Sabians were in reality star-worshippers who under the 
Moslems adopted the name "Sabians" to secure the advantages 
of toleration accorded by the Koran. This name has stuck to 
them ever since, and the curious sect continued to flourish close 
to the headquarters of the caliphate until the middle of the 
thirteenth century, when the Mongols destroyed their last 
temple. Undoubtedly the intellectual merits and scientific 
services of some of its illustrious men helped to gain Moslem 
protection/ Reference has already been made to Thabit ibn- 
Qurrah and other great Harranian astronomers. Thabit's son 
Sinan was forced by the Caliph al-Qahir to embrace Islam. 5 
Among other Sabian luminaries were abu-Ishaq ibn-Hilal al- 
Sabt\ secretary of both al-Muti f (946-74) and al-TaY (974-91); 
al-Battani, the astronomer; ibn-Wahshjyah (fl. ta* 900), pseudo- 
author of the book on Nabataean agriculture; and possibly Jabir 
ibn-rjayyan, the alchemist. The last three professed Islam. 6 
Magians The Zoroastrians (Majus) f mentioned only once in the Koran 
duaJwtt*' (22 : x 7), could not have been included among the Scripturaries 
in Muhammad's mind. But in the hadith and by Moslem legists 
they are treated as such; the term "Sabians" was interpreted to 
cover them. Practical politics and expediency, as we learned 
before, made it necessary that the dhimmi status be accorded 
such a large body of population as that which occupied Iran. 
After the conquest Zoroastrianism, which was the state religion, 

1 P 340, 1. 26, Mas'udi, vol. 11, p 1 12. * From Pers mine, heavenly. 
' Mas'udi, vol iv, pp 61-71, devotes a section to them 

* Fthrtst, p 272, I. n. 

* Ibid. p. 302, quoted by ibn abi-U^aybi'ah, vol. i, pp 220-2 s. 

- For more on the Sabians consult D. Chwolsohn, bit Ssabter und der Ssa&tsmttt, 
3 vols. (St Petersburg, 1856). 

c£xxW- " ' *ABBASID SOCIETY 359 

continued to exist and its fire-templcs remained standing not 
only in all the Iranian provinces but in al-'Iraq, India and places 
<sastof Persia. 1 The Zoroastrians in India are still represented by 
the Parsis, 3 whose ancestors emigrated from Persia early in the 
eighth century. Zoroastrianism yielded a number of distinguished 
converts to Islam, the earliest among whom was ibn-al-Muqaffa** 
Certain phases of early Islamic theology were either a reaction 
against dualism or an imitation of its attitudes. 

The Manichaeans, at first mistaken by the Moslems for Chris- 
tians or Zoroastrians, obtained later the status of a tolerated com- 
munity. The Persian Mani (f A.D. 273 or 274) and his teaching 
seem to have held a special fascination for the followers of 
Muhammad, for we see that both al-Mahdi and al-Hadi issued 
strict measures against the tendency in that direction. Even the 
last Urnayyad caliph, whose tutor was put to death as a zi?idtq, 
was suspected of Manichaeism, 3 In 780 al-Mahdi crucified a 
number of crypto-Manichaeans in Aleppo, 4 and during the last 
two years of his reign instituted an inquisition against them in 
Baghdad, 5 Al-Hadi continued the persecution begun by his 
predecessor.* Al-Rashld likewise appointed a special officer to 
conduct an inquisition against such dualists. 7 But many Mani- 
chaeans and even communistic Mazdakites 8 seem to have sur- 
vived. And although the Koran* entitles idol worshippers to no 
Consideration, practical Islam connived at minor communities 
in Northern Africa and Central Asia which were too insignifi- 
cant to attract public attention, and found it impossible to 
exterminate paganism in India, 

The so-called ''Moslem conquests" which were effected 
mainly under the orthodox caliphs were in reality, as noted 

1 Mas*fidi,^ol iv, p. 86 

1 Name derived from P&rs (Firs)* modem Fans. See above, p. 157, n. 2. 

* Fihnst, pp. 337-8. Early Arab writers applied the term ztndiq (from Pahlawj 
sardlk) to any Moslem whose religious ideas partook of the dogmatic conceptions of 
the Persians in general and the Manichaeans in particular. In later usage tnndiq 
came to mean any person with liberal Mews, a frec-thmker, Cf E. G, Browne, A 
Ltitraty ittstcry cf Pcrsta t vol.i (New York, 1902), pp. r 59 6b. Cf. above, p. 84, 

m 2. 

* Tftbari, vol. m» p. 499 * PP* 5*9 2»» 558- * pp. 548 51. 

* Arabic sources including Ftktut % pp. 327 se$. t Shahrastani, pp 188 seg., and 
Ya'qubi, Vol. i t pp. jSo-82, are among the oldest and best we have on Manichaeism. 

* Tor a modern treatment consult A. V. Williams Jackson, Researches in Manichaeism 
, t (NewYoti, 1932). 

* Sec Tabarn vol. \ % pp 8Ss*o, $97, Shahrastani, pp. 192 seq ; Browne, vol. i t 
pp 166-73. * Surs 4 : 1 16-20, 2! : gH too, 66 : 9. 



before, the conquest of Arab arms and Arab nationals. They 
netted the military and political subjugation of Persia, the 
Fertile Crescent and north-eastern Africa. During the first 
century of 'Abbasid rule the conquests entered upon their 
second stage, the victory of Islam as a religion. It was in the 
course of this stage that the bulk of the population of the empire 
was converted to the new religion. Many conversions were, to be 
sure, concurrent with the early military conquests, but such a 
country as Syria continued to present the aspect of a Christian 
land throughout the whole Umayyad period. The situation now, 
however, began perceptibly to change. The intolerant legislation 
of al-Rashld and al-Mutawakkil undoubtedly contributed its 
quota of fresh converts Cases of individual and collective 
forcible conversion added to their numbers; five thousand of 
the Christian banu-Tanukh whom al-Mahdi saw near Aleppo 
responded to his orders and embraced Islam. 1 But the process of 
conversion in its normal working was more gradual and peace- 
ful, though also inescapable. Self-interest dictated it. To escape 
the payment of the humiliating tribute and other disabilities, to 
secure social prestige or political influence, to enjoy a larger 
measure of freedom and security, these were the strong motives 
in operation. 

Persia remained unconverted to Islam until well into the third 
century after its inclusion in the Arab empire. It counts among 
its population today some 9000 Zoroastrians. The population of 
northern al- r lraq early in the tenth century was still, in the 
opinion of ibn-al-Faq!h, s "Moslem in name but Christian in 
character". Mt. Lebanon has maintained until the present day 
a Christian majority. Egypt, which had embraced Christianity 
but very lightly in the fourth century, proved one of the easiest 
countries to Islamize. Its Copts today form but a small minority. 
The Nubian kingdom, which had been Christianized in the 
middle of the sixth century, was still Christian in the twelfth 
century 3 and even in the latter part of the fourteenth. 4 The 
conversion to Islam of the Berbers and North Africans, whose 

1 Ibn al *Ibn, Chromcon Striatum, ed and tr. P. J. Bruns and G. G. Kirsch 
(Leipzig, 1789), vol ti (text), p 133= vol 1, pp 134-5 
3 Butdan, p 315, 1 9 

* Al Idnsi, St/at al Magkrtb i ed and tr. R. Dozy and M. J. de Goeje (Leyden, 
1864-66), p. 27 (text)«p 32 (tr.). 

* Ibn Batfutah, voLi v, pp. 396. 

Ch.'£cyi> - ^ * f ABBASID SOCIETY 361 

church,' as vpehave before noted, had produced several illustrious 
champions of Christian orthodoxy, was begun with no marked 
success by !Uqbah after the founding of al-Oayrawan in 670 as 
a permanent base of military operation and centre of Islamic 
influence. It was carried out in the following century according 
to a new plan of enlisting the Berbers in the Moslem army and 
thus winning them over by the new prospects of booty. The 
Berbers formed the nucleus of the armed forces which completed 
the conquest of West Africa and effected the subjugation of 
Spain, But even in their case we find three centuries after the 
Arab conquest some forty bishoprics left 1 of the church which 
once comprised five hundred. Here the final triumph of Islam 
was not achieved till the twelfth century, though certain Kabyls 
(fronrAr. qahail> tribes) of Algeria had the Andalusian Moors, 
driven out after the fall of Granada in 1492, to thank for their 

The v third stage in the series of conquests was the linguistic 
one:, the victory of the Arabic tongue over the native languages 
of the subjugated peoples. This was the latest and slowest. It 
was in this field of struggle that the subject races presented the 
greatest measure of resistance* They proved, as is often the case, 
more ready to give up their political and even religious loyalties 
than their linguistic ones. The complete victory of Arabic as the 
language of common usage was not assured until the latter part 
of the 'Abbasid period. In Persia Arabic became for some time 
after the military conquest the language of learning and society, 
but it never succeeded in displacing permanently the Iranian 
speech* Jn al-*Iraq and Syria the transition from one Semitic 
tongue, the Aramaic, to another, the Arabic, was of course 
easier. In the out-of-the-way places, however, such as the 
Lebanons with their preponderant Christian population, the 
native Syriac put up a desperate fight and has lingered until 
modern times. Indeed Syriac is still spoken in Ma'lula and two 
other villages in Anti-Lebanon. With its disappearance Aramaic 
has left in the colloquial Arabic unmistakable traces noticeable 
in vocabulary, accent and grammatical structure. 11 

Arabic <as the language of learning, it should be noted, won 

fc * De Mas Latrie, RtUiions tt commerce dt VAfriqnt stptcntrionate {Paris, i8S6), 
VP- *7;$; "Arnoltl, Prtachingi pp. 126 se?* 
t Hilti/«AZ«£to al -Sanity ah (Beirut. 1922), pp. 30-46, 


its day before Arabic as the vernacular* In the preceding chapter 
we have seen how fresh streams of thought from Byzantium, 
Persia and India resulted in a new concentration of culture in 
the Soo's in Baghdad, al-Basrah and al-Kufah, comparable 
only to that of Alexandria in earlier times, and rendered Arabic, 
never used before for scientific purposes, the vehicle of the 
Moslem civilization. We shall now proceed to trace that cultural 


THE epoch of translation (ca. 750-850), discussed in a previous 
chapter (XXIV), was followed by one of creative activity; for 
the Arabs not only assimilated the ancient lore of Persia and the 
classical heritage of Greece but adapted both to their own 
peculiar needs and ways of thinking. In medicine and philosophy 
their independent work was less conspicuous than in alchemy, 
astronomy, mathematics and geography. In law, theology, 
philology and linguistics as Arabs and Moslems they carried on 
original thinking and research. Their translations, transmuted 
in no small degree by the Arab mind during the course of several 
centuries, were transmitted, together with many new contribu- 
tions, to Europe through Syria, Spain and Sicily and laid the 
basis of that canon of knowledge which dominated medieval 
European thought. And transmission, from the standpoint of 
the history of culture, is no less essential than origination, for 
had the researches of Aristotle, Galen and Ptolemy been lost to 
« posterity the world would have been as poor as if they had never 
been produced. 

The line of demarcation between translated and original work iv 
is not always clearly drawn. Many of the translators were also 
contributors. Such was the case with Yuhanna ibn-Masawayh 
(777-857) and rj[unayn ibn-Ishaq (809-73). The former, a 
Christian physician and pupil of Jibrll ibn-Bakhtishu\ failing 
to obtain human subjects for dissection, a practice which was 
never encouraged by Islam, had recourse to apes, one of which 
came from Nubia in 836 as a present to al-Mu'tasim. 1 Under 

- these conditions little progress was made in the science of 
anatomy, except possibly in studying the anatomical structure 

" of the eye. The prevalence of eye diseases in the sunny climate 
of al-'Iraq and other Moslem lands concentrated early medical 
attention on this subject. From the pen of ibn-Masawayh ive 
* Ibn-abi-Usaybi'ah, vol. i, p, 17S. 


have the oldest systematic treatise on ophthalmology extant in 
Arabic, 1 A book entitled al-Ashr Maqalat fi al-Ayn (the ten 
treatises on the eye) and ascribed to his pupil rlunayn ibn-Isfcaq 
has recently been published with an English translation 2 as the 
earliest existing text-book of ophthalmology. 

Arab interest in the curative science found expression in the 
Prophetic tradition that made science twofold: theology and 
medicine The physician was at the same time metaphysician, 
philosopher and sage, and the title Imkim was indifferently 
applied to him m all these capacities. The case of the Nestorian 
Jibrll ibn-Bakhtishu* (| ca. 830), who was court physician of 
al-Rashid, ai-Ma'mun and the Barmakids and is said to have 
amassed a fortune of 88,800,000 dirhams, 3 shows that the medical 
profession was a paying one. As private physician of al-Rash!d 
Jibrfl received, we are told, 100,000 dirhams for bleeding the 
caliph twice a year and an equal sum for administering a semi* 
annual purgative draught. The Bakhtlshu* family produced six 
or seven generations of distinguished physicians, the last of 
whom flourished in the second half of the eleventh century. 

In the curative use of drugs some remarkable advances were 
made at this time by the Arabs. It was they who established the 
first apothecary shops, founded the earliest school of pharmacy 
and produced the first pharmacopoeia. Several pharmacological 
treatises were composed, beginning with those of the world- 
famed Jabir lbn-Hayyan, the father of Arabic alchemy, who 
flourished about 776. As early as the days of al-Ma'mun and 
al-Mu f tasim pharmacists had to pass some kind of examina- 
tion. 4 Like druggists, physicians also were required to submit to 
a test. Following a case of malpractice Sman lbn-Thabit ibn- 
Qurrah was ordered by al-Muqtadir in 931 to examine all 
practising physicians and grant certificates (sing, ijdzaft) only to 
those who satisfied him. Over eight hundred and sixty such men 
in Baghdad passed the test and the capital rid itself of its quacks. 5 
On the orders of al-Muqtadir's virtuous vizir f Ali ibn-'Isa, 
Sinan organized a staff of physicians who would go from place to 

1 Degkal al-'Ayn (the disorder of the c}e), MS , one copy is in Taymur Pasha's 
bbrarv, Cmro, another in Leningrad 
5 Bv Max Mevcrhof (Cairo, 192S). 
3 gift, p 143 
1 Ibid pp iSS 9 

* Ibn-abi-LUivbi'ah, \ol t,p. 222; Qif& p. 191. 


place carrying drugs and administering relief to ailing people. 
Other physicians made daily visits to jails. 1 Such facts show an 
intelligent interest in public hygiene unknown to the rest of the 
world at that time. In his efforts to raise the scientific standard 
of the medical profession and in his efficient administration of 
the Baghdad hospital lay Sinan's chief title to fame. This 
hospital, the first in Islam, was created by Harun al-Rashld at 
the beginning of the ninth century, following the Persian model, 
as the Arabic name bzmdristan* indicates. Not long afterwards 
other hospitals to the number of thirty-four grew up throughout 
the Moslem world. Cairo saw its first hospital under ibn- 
Tulun 5 about 872, an institution which survived until the 
fifteenth century. Travelling clinics made their appearance in 
the eleventh century. Moslem hospitals had special wards for 
women and each had its own dispensary. Some were equipped 
with medical libraries and offered courses in medicine. 

The most notable medical authors who followed the epoch of 4 
the great translators were Persian in nationality but Arab in " 
language: *Aft al-Tabari, al-Razj, *AVt ibn-al-* Abbas al-Majusi 
and ibn-Sma. The portraits of two of these, al-Razi and ibn-STna, 
adorn the great hall of the School of Medicine at the University 
of Paris. 

f Ali ibn-Sahl Rabban al-Tabari, who flourished in the middle 
of the ninth century, was originally a Christian from fabaristan, 
as he tells us in his Kiiab al-Din and as his father's name 
indicates. 4 In the reign of al-Mutawakkil he turned Moslem and 
became a physician to the caliph himself, under whom he 
produced in 850 his Firdaws al-Rikmah (paradise of wisdom), 
One of the oldest Arabic compendiums of medicine. This work 
includesto some extent philosophy and astronomy and is based 
on^ Greek and Hindu sources. After *Ali the distinguished 
theologian-philosopher and physician al-Razi flourished. 

Abu-Bakr Muhammad ibn-Zakariya* al-Razi (Rhazes, 86$- ' 
925), so called after the place of his birth, al-Rayy, not far from 
Tihran, the capital of modern Persia, was probably "the greatest 

* Ilm-abi-Usaybrah, vol. i> p. ztv t Qiftf, pp. 193-4. 

» Pers. hi mar, sick-f ;tdn t place of. ~ a Ibo-Duqmaq;, pt. iv, p. 99. 

1 '* Pp t iz^s^Soektf I?£?igicn t p. 147. Sec also Fihrist, p. 296; cf. ibn-KhalHkan, 
vol. u, p. 50^ L 25. "Rahban" in his father's name, which made scholars think that 
he was of Jewish origin, is obviously Syriac for "otir master**, as 'AU explains in his 
introduction to Ftrda&s chflihmak fi al*T&b % ed. Muhammad Z. $iddfqi (Berlin, 



and most original of all the Muslim physicians, and one of the 
most prolific as an author". 1 In selecting a new site for the great 
hospital 2 at Baghdad, of which he was chief physician, he is said 
to have hung up shreds of meat in different places, choosing the 
spot where they showed the least signs of putrefaction. 3 He is 
also considered the inventor of the seton in surgery. The Fihrist 1 
lists one hundred and thirteen major and twenty-eight minor 
works by al-Razi, of which twelve deal with alchemy. One of his 
principal works on alchemy, the Kitab al-Asrdr (the book of 
secrets), after having passed through numerous editorial hands 
was rendered into Latin by the eminent translator Gerard of 
Cremona (f 1 187) and became a chief source of chemical know- 
ledge until superseded in the fourteenth century by Jabir's 
(Geber's) works. Under the title De sptritibus et corponbus it 
was quoted by Roger Bacon. While still in Persia al-Razi wrote 
for Mansur ibn-Ishaq al-Samani of Snistan a monumental work in 
ten volumes, named after his patron Kiiab al-Ttbb aUMansuri y 
of which a Latin translation {Liber Almansoris) was first pub- 
lished in Milan in the eighties of the fifteenth century. Parts of it 
have been recently done into French and German. Of his mono- 
graphs one of the best known is a treatise on smallpox and 
measles {al-Judari w-al-Hasbah), the earliest of its kind and 
rightly considered an ornament to the medical literature of the 
Arabs. In it we find the first clinical account of smallpox. 5 

Translated into Latin in Venice (1565) and later into several 
modern languages, this treatise served to establish al-Razi's 
reputation as one of the keenest original thinkers and greatest 
clinicians not only of Islam but of the Middle Ages. His most 
important work, however, was al-Hawi (the comprehensive 
book), first translated into Latin under the auspices of Charles I 
of Anjou by the Sicilian Jewish physician Faraj bcn-Salim in 
1279. Under the title Continens it was repeatedly printed from 
i486 onwards, a fifth edition appearing in Venice in 1542. As 
the name indicates, this book was meant to be encyclopaedic in 
its range of medical information. It sums up the knowledge the 

1 Edward G. Browne, Arabian Medicine (Cambridge, 1921), p. 44 

a Wrongly referred to by later writers as 1 ol 'AduaY*, after the Buwayhid ruler 
'Atfud al-Dawlah, who established on its site his own hospital. 

3 Ibn abi-U$a>bi'ah, vol. i, pp. 309-10. * Pp. 299 302. 

* Ed. Cornelius Van Dyck (London, 1866, and Beirut, 1872); tr. W. A. GrccnhiB, 
A Treatise on the Small Pox and Measles (London, 184S). 


Arabs possessed at that time of Greek, Persian and Hfndu ntedi* 
cine and adds some fresh contributions. Printed whtfn printing 
was still in its infancy, these medical works of al-Razi exercised 
for centuries a remarkable influence over the minds of the Latin 

West. . 

'All ibn-al-' Abbas (Haly Abbas, f 994), originally a Zoroas- 1 
trian as his last name, al-Majusi (the Magian), indicates, dis- 
tinguished himself as the author of al-Kiiab al-Mahki (the royal 
book, Liber regitis), which he composed for the great Buwayhid 
f Adud-al-Dawlah Fanna Khusraw, who reigned 949-&3- 1 This 
work, also called Kamil al-Stntfah al-Tibfcyah x a tf noble the- 
saurus comprehending the science and practice of Medicine", 5 
was more concise than al-IJawi and was diligently studied until 
superseded by ibn-Slna's al-Qdnun. The best parts oi&l-Maliki 
are devoted to dietetics and materia medica. Among its original 
contributions are a rudimentary conception of the capillary 
system and a proof that in the act of parturition the child does 
not come out by Itself but is pushed out by the muscular con- 
tractions of the womb. 

The most illustrious name in Arabic medical aflnah after] 
al-Razi's is that of ibn-Sma (Latin Avicenna, through Heb, 
Aven Slna, 980-1037), called by the Arabs al-shaybk al-rats, 
"the sheikh" (of the learned) and * 'prince" (of the courtiers)* 3 Al- 
Raai was more of a physician than ibn-Slna, but ibr*-Slna was 
more of a philosopher* In this physician, philosopher and poet 
Arab science culminates and is, one might say, incarnated. 

Abu^Ali al-^usayn, to use his first name, was the son of an 
,Isma*ili, 'Abdullah. Born near Bukhara, he spent all his life in 
the eastern part of the Moslem world and was burieci hi Hama- 
dhan, where his grave is still shown. As a young man he had the 
„ good fortune to cure the Samanid sultan of Bukhara, Null 
. ibn-Mansur (reigned 976-97), and was therefore givefl the privi- 
■> lege of using the ruler's remarkable library. Endowed with 
* extraordinary powers of absorbing and retaining Jaiowledge, 
this Moslem Persian scholar devoured the contents c?f the royal 
^ library and at the early age of twenty-one was in a position to 
embark on his career of writing. This included the systematizing 

1 Ibn-abt-t^bi'ah, \ol. i t pp 236-7; Qif& p. 232. 
t * Qif&p*332.ForacomplcteMS «opy dated s86(a.d. 1190) see^tti, Fomand 
Abd ftUMftltlh, Catalog of Arabic Afanuscrjp£s t supp no I 
* * Abo called cl-nu'^Iltm ahtham, the second teacher (after Aristae), 



of the knowledge of his time. AKQifti 1 lists only forty-live works 
of ibn-Sina; but a modern bibliographer lists under his name 
over two hundred titles, dealing with philosophy, medicine, 
geometry, astronomy, theology, philology and art. Of these his 
best-known poetical production is a lengthy ode describing "the 
descent of the soul into the body from the higher sphere'* and is 
still memorized by young students in the Arabic East. Among 
his scientific works the leading two are the Kitdb al-Shifa 
(book of healing), a philosophical encyclopaedia based upon the 
Aristotelian tradition as modified by Neo-Pl atonic influences 
and Moslem theology, and al-Qdniin fi al-Ttdd, which represents 
the final codification of Greco-Arabic medical thought. The 
Arabic text of the Qaniin was published in Rome in 1 593 and 
was therefore one of the earliest Arabic books to see print. 2 
Translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the twelfth 
century, this Canon, with its encyclopaedic contents, its system- 
atic arrangement and philosophic plan, soon worked its way 
into a position of pre-eminence in the medical literature of the 
age, displacing the works of Galen, al-Razi and al-Majusi and 
becoming the text-book for medical education in the schools of 
Europe. In the last thirty years of the fifteenth century it passed 
through fifteen Latin editions and one Hebrew. In recent years 
a partial translation into English was made. 3 The book dis- 
tinguishes mediastinitis from pleurisy and recognizes the 
contagious nature of phthisis and the spreading of diseases by 
water and soil. It gives a scientific diagnosis of ankylostomiasis 
and attributes it to an intestinal worm. Its materia medica 
considers some seven hundred and sixty drugs. From the 
twelfth to the seventeenth centuries this work served as the chief 
guide to medical science in the West and it is still in occasional 
use in the Moslem East. In the words of Dr. Osier 4 it has re- 
mained "amedical bible for a longer period than any other work". 

Among the lesser lights in the medical firmament mention 
may be made of *Ali ibn-'Isa (Jesu Haly), the most famous 

1 P. 418. Cf. ibn-abi-TJsaybi*ah, vol. ii, pp 18-20, ibn-KhalhkSn, vol. i, pp. 273-4; 
Carl Brockclmann, Geschtchte der erabtschen Litter atur s \oL i (Weimar, 1S0S), 
pp. 453-8. 

* The first edition of a compendium of ahShtfa* appeared as a supplement to this 

3 O Cameron Gruner, A Treatise on ihe Canon cj Medicine cf Avicenna (London, 

* V> ilium Osier, The Cvvlution cf Modern Medicine (New Haven, 1922), p. 98. 


oculist (kahhal) of the Arabs. *Ali, a Christian, flourished in 
Baghdad in the first half of the eleventh century, a century and 
a half after the court physician of al-Mu*tamid, whose name, 
f isa ibn-'Ali, 1 is often confused with his. Of the thirty-two 
medieval Arabic works on ophthalmology his Tadhkirat aU 
Kah\ialin~ (a note for oculists), which has survived in its com* 
plete and original form, is one of the oldest and worthiest. Only 
the two treatises by ibn-Masawayh and yunayn ibn-Ishaq 
antedate it. The Tadhkirah carefully describes one hundred and 
thirty eye diseases. It was done once into Hebrew and twice into 
Latin and is still m use in the East. 

Another physician of the second class was ibn-Jazlah (Ben- 
gesia, Byngezla, f 1 100), originally a Christian, 3 who wrote a 
medical synopsis entitled Taqwim al-Abdan fi Tadbtr al-Insan 
(tables of the body with ijegard to the physical management of 
man) modelled on the Taqwim al-Sihhah by another Christian 
physician, ibn-Butlan,* who died in Antioch about 1063. In a 
Taqwim diseases are arranged as are the stars in astronomical 
tables. Ibn-Jazlah^ work was translated into Latin at Strassburg 
in 1532. The last physician to be mentioned in this series is 
Ya'qub ibn-akhi-yizam, the stable- master of al-Mu*tadid 
(892-902), who composed a treatise on horsemanship (al~ 
Puriistyah wa-Shiydt al-Khayl) which is the first Arabic work of 
its kind. It contains some rudiments of the veterinary art and has 
survived in a manuscript now preserved in the British Museum, 5 
> To the Arabs philosophy (Jalsafah) was a knowledge of the 1 
true cause of things as they really are, in so far as it is possible 
to ascertain them by human faculties. In essence their philosophy 
was Greek, modified by the thought of the conquered peoples and 
by other Eastern influences, adapted to the mental proclivities 
of Islam and expressed through the medium of Arabic. These 
Arabs believed Aristotle's works to have represented a complete 
codification of Greek philosophical lore, as Galen's represented 
Greek medical lore* Greek philosophy and medicine meant then, 

1 fohrist, p 207; ibn-abMJ^aybi'ah, vol. t, p. 203. 
* * Ibn-abi-U$ayU r ah,\ol. i, p. 247. Translated, not from the original Arabic, by 
' Ca<ey A. Wood, The Tadhktrat ofjlh thn /so (Chicago, 1036). 

* Ibid, vol.i, p 255; Qifb, p 365; tbn-KhalhUn, \ol m, p. 25s- 
Httd, Arcb+Synan GentUnan^ pp. 214-16, ibn-abi UsAybi'oh, \oI. 1, pp. 24s 

*<7 * Qifti, pp 294 

* * Fihnsf) p. 315, mentions an ibn-aUti-FIttdm, pcrb^ps a son of YVqub. 


of course, all that the West possessed. As Moslems the Arabs 
believed that the Koran and Islamic theology were the summa- 
tion of religious law and experience. Their original contribution, 
therefore, was made in the borderland between philosophy and 
religion on one hand and philosophy and medicine on the other. 
In course of time Arab authors came to apply the viov&falasifah 
or huka?na (philosophers or sages) to those philosophers among 
them whose speculations were not limited by religion, reserv- 
ing the term mutakalltmun or ahl al-kalam (speech-makers, 
dialecticians) for those whose system was conditioned by sub- 
ordination to revealed religion. The mutakallimun % who corre- 
sponded to the scholastic writers of Christian Europe, set forth 
their theories in the form of propositions and were therefore 
called by that title. Kaldm came slowly to mean theology and 
mutakallim became a synonym for theologian. Al-Ghazzali was 
primarily a theologian and will be dealt with later. The greatest 
names in the field of early Arab philosophy were those of al- 
Kindi, al-Farabi and ibn-Sina. 

Al-Kmdi, abu-Yusuf Ya'qub ibn-Ishaq, was born probably in 
ai-Kufah about 801 and flourished m Baghdad, where he died 
about 873 His pure Arabian descent earned him the title "the 
philosopher of the Arabs* \ and indeed he was the first and last 
example of an Aristotelian student in the Eastern caliphate who 
sprang from Arabian stock Eclectic in his system, al-Kindi en- 
deavoured in Neo-Platonic fashion to combine the views of Plato 
and Aristotle and regarded the Neo-Pythagorean mathematics 
as the basis of all science. Al-Kindi was more than a philosopher. 
He was astrologer, alchemist, optician and music theorist No 
less than three hundred and sixty-one works are ascribed to him, 
but most of them unhappily have been lost. His principal work 
on geometrical and physiological optics, based on the Optics of 
Euclid in Theon's recension, was widely used in both East and 
West until superseded by the greater work of ibn-al-Haytham. 
In its Latin translation, De aspecitbtis, it influenced Roger Bacon. 
Al-Kindi's three or four treatises on the theory of music are the 
earliest extant works in Arabic showing the influence of Greek 
writers on that subject. In one of these treatises al-Kindi describes 
rhythm (Jqa) as a constituent part of Arabic music. Measured 
song, or mensural music, must therefore have been known to 
the Moslems centuries before it was introduced into Christian 


-Europe. 1 Of al-Kindi's writings more have survived in Latin 
translations, including those of Gerard of Cremona, than in the 
Arabic original. 

The harmonization of Greek philosophy with Islam begun by i 
al-Kindi, an Arab, was continued by al-Farabi, a Turk, and com- 
pleted in the East by ibn-Sma, a Persian 

Muhammad ibn~Muhammad ibn-Tarkhan abu-Nasr al- 
Farabi 2 (Alpharabius) was born in Transoxiana, educated under 
a Christian physician and a Christian translator in Baghdad and 
flourished as a Sufi at Aleppo in the brilliant court of Sayf-al- 
Dawlah al-Hamdam He died at Damascus in 950 at the age of 
about eighty- His system of philosophy, as revealed by his several 
treatises on Plato and Aristotle, was a syncretism of Platonism, 
Aristotelianism and Sufism and won him the enviable title of 
"the second teacher" {al-mt£allt7n al-thdm) t after the great 
Stagirite. Besides a number of commentaries on Aristotle and 
other Greek philosophers, al-Farabi composed various psycho- 
logical, political and metaphysical works, of which the best-known 
are the Risdlat Fusils al-Htkam* (epistle containing bezels of 
wisdom) and the Rtsdlah fi Ara Ahl al-Madinah al-Fddilah 
(epistle on the opinions of the people of the superior city). 4 In 
the latter and in his al-Siydsah {Stydsdt) al-Madaniyak (political 
regime), al-Farabi, inspired by Plato's Republic and Aristotle*s 
Politics, presents his conception of a model city, which he 
conceives as a hierarchical organism analogous to the human 
body. The sovereign, who corresponds to the heart, is served 
by functionaries who are themselves served by others still 
lower. In his ideal city the object of association is the happi- 
ness of its citizens, and the sovereign is perfect morally and 

^Al-Farabi*s other writings reveal him as a fair physician and 
mathematician, an occult scientist and an excellent musician. 
In fact he is considered the greatest of all Arabic music theorists. 
Besides his treatment of music in two of his compendiums of the 
sciences, he devotes three major works to the subject, of which 

1 See below, p. 600. 

* From laiabin Turkestan, Ibn-abi-U$aybrah, vol. H, p. 134; Qiftf, p. 277. 
1 Published by Friednch Djeterici in his Die Pktlosopkie dor Arcbcr tm IX* 
y ttnd X.Jahrhundtri w. Chr. } vol. xiv (Leyden, 1890), pp. 66 S3. 
{ * Published at Cairo, 1323, and also by Dietcnci, Phtlosophte der Arab<rr t \ol xn 
{Leyden, 1595), v.ho also translated it as Der MusUrstaat von Alf&rdbi (Leyden, 



the leading is the Kitab al-Musiqi al-Kabir (the great book of 
music), 1 In the presence of his patron Sayf-al-Dawlah he is said 
to have been able to play his lute so as to cast his hearers into a 
fit of laughter, draw tears from their eyes or set them all asleep, 
including even the doorkeepers. 3 Ancient chants attributed to 
him are still sung by the Mawlawi dervishes. 

After al-Farabi it was ibn-Slna (f 1037) who contributed the 
most important works in Arabic on the theory of music. Ibn- 
Sina, already treated with the medical men, was indebted to 
al-Farabi in his philosophical views. In the judgment of ibn- 
Khallikan 3 "no Moslem ever reached in the philosophical 
sciences the same rank as al-Farabi; and it was by the study of 
his writings and by the imitation of his style that ibn-Slna 
attained proficiency and rendered his own work so useful". It 
was ibn-Sma, however, who placed the sum-total of Greek 
wisdom, codified by his own ingenuity, at the disposal of the 
educated Moslem world in an intelligible form. Through him 
the Greek system, particularly that of Philo, was rendered 
capable of incorporation with Islam. 
The About the middle of the fourth Moslem century (ca. 970) 

5HccrUy° f tnere flourished in al-Basrah an interesting eclectic school of 
popular philosophy, with leanings toward Pythagorean specula- 
tions, known as Ikhwan al-Safa' (the brethren of sincerity). The 
appellation is presumably taken from the story of the ringdove 
in Kaltlah wa-Dimnah in which it is related that a group of 
animals by acting as faithful friends {ikhwan al-sofa*) to one 
another escaped the snares of the hunter. 6 

The Ikhwan, who had a branch in Baghdad, formed not only 
a philosophical but also a religio-political association with ultra- 
Shf ite, probably Isma'ilite, views and were opposed to the exist- 
ing political order, which they evidently aimed to overthrow by 
undermining the popular intellectual system and religious be- 
liefs. Hence arises the obscurity surrounding their activities and 

1 Extracts by J. P. N. Land appeared in Ades du sixieme eengrte international 
des orientalistes, pt 2, sec. I (Leyden, lSSs), pp. I CO- 1 68. Fr. tr. by Rodolphe 
dTrlanger, La musigue arabe, vols, i, ii, al-Farabt (Paris, 1930-35). Hitti, Fans and 
*Abd-al-Mahk, Catalog of Arabic Manuscripts, no. 19S4. 

* Ibn-Khalhkan, vol. Si, p. 501. 

1 Vol. U, p. Slane, \ol. Hi, p. 307. 

4 From this it would appear that the usual rendition, "the brethren of purity", 
"les freres de la pureti", "die lauteren Bruder", is not exact. 

* I. Goldzihcr in Der hlam, vol. i (1910), pp. 22*6. 

<kww»'' 'scimrmc and literary progress 375 

membership. A collection of their epistles, Rasail, 1 arranged in 
encyclopaedic fashion survives, bearing some obscure names as 
collaborators. The epistles number fifty-two and treat of mathe- 
matics, astronomy, geography, music, ethics, philosophy, em- 
bodying the sum-total of knowledge that a cultured man of that 
age was supposed to acquire. The first fifty-one epistles lead up 
to the last, which is a summation of all sciences. The language 
of the epistles shows that Arabic had by that time become an 
adequate instrument for expressing scientific thought in all its 
various aspects. Al-Ghazzali was influenced by the Ikhwan's 
writings/ and Rashid-al-Din Sinan ibn-Sulayman, the chief of 
the Assassins in Syria, used them diligently. 3 When in Baghdad 
abu-al-*Ala' al~Ma*arri, the great Syrian poet-philosopher, 
attended the association's Friday meetings.* Abu-fjayyan al- 
TawhTdi (f 1023 the famous Mu'taziiite who with al-Rawandi 
(t9 x S) an ^ al-Ma c arri (f 1057) formed the trinity of arch- 
heretics in Islam, 6 was a pupil if not an active member of the 

The scientific study of astronomy in Islam was begun, as we , 
have already learned, under the influence of an Indian work, the j 
Siddhayita (Ar. Sindhind), brought to Baghdad (771), translated 1 
by Muhammad ibn-Ibrahlm al-Fazari and used as a model 
by later scholars. Pahiawi tables (sik) compiled in the Sasanid 
period were soon added in translated form iplf). Greek ele- 
ments, last in order of time, were first in importance. An early 
translation of Ptolemy's Almagest was followed by two superior 
ones: the one by ai-yajjaj ibn-Matar completed in A.H. 212 
(827-8) and the other by rlunayn ibn-Ishaq revised by Thabit 
ibn-Qurrah (f 901). Early in the ninth century the first regular 
observations (rafd) with fairly accurate instruments were made 
in Jundaysabur (south-west Persia). In connection with his Bayt 
al-Hikinah, al-Mamun erected at Baghdad near the Sham- 
masiyah gate an astronomical observatory under the directorship 

* Bieterici issued and translated a great part of the text m his Die Philosophic dtr 
Arahr, 16 \ols. (Leiprig and Lcyden, 185S-JS95). The last Oriental edition is that 
of Khayr-al-DJn al-Zinkli, 4 vols, (Cairo, 1928). 

* Cf. fkyd\ vol. ii t p. 254, 11. S-12, p. 262, 11 j8-2o, with jRas&il t vol. i, p. 180, 

* M. C. Defternery in Journal a$icttquc> scr. 5, vol v (1S55), pp. 5-6. 

* * Consult his JZfusdn; Sigt ai-Zaxd, ed. Shakir Shuqayr (Beirut, 1S84), p. I IS, 
L15. p. 104, 1!.4*S. 

* C£ tbn*KhVfo*an, \oh it, p t 470; Yaqut, CMd\ \oh v, p. 381. 

* Al*SuUi t falaqdt oI*Sha/i*hoJt cl Kxtbra (Cairo, 1906), vol iv, p # 3, 


* * * 

of a converted Jew, Sind ibn-'AH, and Yahya ibn-abi-Mansur 
(|83o or Here the caliph's astronomers "not only made 

systematic observation of the celestial movements, but also 
yerified with remarkably precise results all the fundamental 
elements of the Almagest, the obliquity of the ecliptic, the 
precession of the equinoxes, the length of the solar year, etc/ 1 * 
To this observatory al-Ma'mun soon added another on Mt* 
QastySn outside of Damascus. 3 The equipment in those days 
consisted of quadrant, astrolabe, dial and globes. Ibrahim al- 
Fazari (f ca. 777) was the first Moslem to construct an astrolabe, 4 
Undoubtedly on the Greek model, as the Arabic name (asturlab) 
indicates, One of the earliest Arabic treatises on this instrument 
was -written by *Ali ibn-*Isa al-Asturlabi (maker of astrolabes), 
who flourished in Baghdad and Damascus before 830. 

- -Al-Ma mun's astronomers performed one of the most delicate 
geodetic operations — the measuring of the length of a terrestrial 
degree. The object was to determine the size of the earth and its 
circumference on the assumption that the earth was round. The 
measurement, carried out on the plain of Sinjar north of the 
Euphrates and also near Palmyra, yielded 563 Arabic miles as 
the length of a degree of the meridian — a remarkably accurate 
result, Exceeding the real length of the degree at that place by 

^about 2877 feet. 5 This would make the circumference of the earth 
26,400 miles and its diameter 6500. Among those who took part- 
in this operation were the sons of Musa ibn-Shakir and perhaps 
al-Khwarkmi, whose tables (zij)> revised a century and a half 
Jater by the Spanish astronomer Maslamah al-Majriti (f ca. 1007) 
and translated into Latin in 11 26 by Adelard of Bath, became 
the bases for other works both in the East and the West. Such 
Arab .astronomical tables replaced all their Greek and Indian 
predecessors and came to be used even in China, 
Another eminent astronomer of the period was abu-al-'Abbas 

t Ahmad * al-Farghani (Alfraganus), of Farghanah inTransoxiana, 

* Who' in 861 superintended for al-Mutawakkii the erection of a 
Milometer at al-Fustaf, 7 Al-Farghani's principal work, aUMud- 

* FthriSt t p 275. 

"* * C„ A^aUino, art. ^Astronomy* 1 , kixychpadux of Is/dm. Ct $a*id, J\sbeqSt t 
PP»5<>*5t* * Ibn-aVIbri, p. 237. * Fthrist, p 273, 

* JMalhno, *Ifet at-Falak (Cairo, 1911), pp. 28 r $tq. Kx.falak (celestial sphere) 
may be Bi%loni3n, pp. 105-6. 

* "Mtibamixud" m Infnst y p 279, follow td by Qiftf, p 2S6. 

* Ibn-abi-Us&ybrah, vol i, p. 207, 



khtl ila *Ilnt Hayat al-Afidk? was done into Latin in 1135 by 
John of Seville and Gerard of Cremona, and also into Hebrew. 
In Arabic it has survived under different titles. 2 

Besides the Ma'rmini observatory, one was operated by the 
three sons of Musa ibn-Shakir (850-70) in their house at Bagh- 
dad The Buwayhid Sultan Sharaf-al-Dawlah (982-9) instituted 
another in his Baghdad palace, where 'Abd-al-Rahman al-Sufi 
(f 986), whose al-Kawakib al-Thdbttah (fixed stars) is a master- 
piece of observational astronomy, Ahmad al-Saghani (t99o) 
and abu-al-Wafa' (f 997) 3 worked. In the court of another 
Buwayhid, Rukn-al-Dawlah (932-76) of al-Rayy, flourished 
abu«Ja r far al-Khazin of Khurasan, 4 who ascertained the obli- 
quity of the eclipitic and solved a problem in Archimedes which 
leads to a cubic equation. Other astronomers made a systematic 
study of the heavens in Shiraz, Naysabur and Samarqand. 

AiBattaoi Between 877 and 918 abu-'AbdulIah Muhammad ibn-Jabir 
al-Battam 1 (Aibategmus), originally a Sabian from rjarran and 
unquestionably the greatest astronomer of his nationality and 
time and one of the greatest in Islam, made his observations 
and studies in al-Raqqah. Al-Battam was an original research 
worker. He made several emendations to Ptolemy and rectified 
the calculations for the orbits of the moon and certain planets. 
He proved the possibility of annular eclipses of the sun, deter- 
mined with greater accuracy the obliquity of the ecliptic and 
presented original theories on the determination of the visibility 
of the new moon, 0 

Ai-Birflni At Ghaznah, Afghanistan, lived abu-al-Rayhan Muhammad 
ibn-Ahmad al-BTruni 7 (973-1050), considered the most original 
and profound scholar Islam produced in the domain of natural 
science. Here this Arabic author of Persian origin, who spoke 
Turkish and knew besides Persian Sanskrit, Hebrew and Syriac, 
produced in 1030 for his patron Mas'ud, son of the famous 
Mahmud, an account of the science of astronomy entitled al- 

* Ibn-al-"Ibri, p 236, Qifp, p. 78 

s Sec Hitti, Fans and f Abd al- Malik, Catalog cf Arabic Manuscripts ; no 967. 

* Fshnst, p 283; ibn-al-Athir, vol tx, p 97; lbn-Khaihkan, vol n, pp. 508 9 

* Qi/fo, p 396, Fthrtst t pp. 266, 2S2. 5 Fthrtst i p. 279 

* His astronomical work al-Ztj ah$abi v* as edited by C. A. Nalhno (Kome, 1899). 
7 Ibn abi-Usaybi*ah, vol. U, pp. 20-21; ibn-al-*Ibn, pp 324*5. His surname is 

derived from Birun (Pers for outside}, a suburb of K5th, capital of Khwanzmi 
though an autograph on a manuscript title pige reproduced m Islamic Culture* 
vol n (1932) faring p 534, spells "al Ba\runi" 


Qanfm ahMastldi ft al-Hay % ak w-al-Nujum* In the same year 
he composed a short catechism of geometry, arithmetic, astro- 
nomy and astrology entitled al-Tafktm li-Awail Sinaat aU 
Tattjim* His first work was al-Atkar al-Baqiyah 9 an al-Qurun 
aUKh&liyah? dealing chiefly with the calendars and eras of 
ancient peoples. In these works al-BIruni discusses intelligently 
the then debatable theory of the earth's rotation on its axis and 
makes accurate determination of latitudes and longitudes. Al- 
Btruni, who was a Shi'ite with agnostic leanings, sojourned in 
India 5 and was charmed by Hindu philosophy. Among his 
scientific contributions are an explanation of the working of 
natural springs by the hydrostatic principle, the suggestion that 
the Indus valley must have been an ancient sea basin filled up 
with alluvium, and the description of several monstrosities, in- 
cluding what we call Siamese twins. 8 

Of the Saljuq sultans, Jalal-al-Dln Malikshah patronized 
astronomical studies. He established in 467 (1074-5) at al-Rayy 
or at Naysabur an observatory where there was introduced into 
the civil calendar an important reform based on an accurate 
determination of the length of the tropical year. To this task of 
reforming the old Persian calendar he called to his new observa- 
tory the celebrated 'Umar al~Khayyam. 4 Born between 1038 
and 1048 at Naysabur, where he died in 1 123-4, *Umar is known 
to the world primarily as a Persian poet 5 and free-thinker; very 
few realize that he was a first-class mathematician and astronomer 
as well. The researches of al-Khayyam and his collaborators 
resulted in the production of the calendar named after his patron 
al-Tdrikh al-Jalali % which is even more accurate than the 
Gregorian calendar. The latter leads to an error of one day in 
3330 years, whereas al-Khayyam 's apparently leads to an error 
of one day in about 5000 years. 

One year after he had destroyed Baghdad, Hulagu com- 
menced (1259) the construction near Lake Urmiyah of the great 

1 Ed E. Sachau (Leipzig, 1878); tr. Sachau (London, 1879). 
1 See his account Tc^qtq Ma lucl-IItnd, ed. E. Sachau (London, 1887); tr. 
S^chiis (London, *SSS), 2 vols, (reprinted London, 1910). 
t * In a still unpublished work of his the first reference to tea in other than Chinese 

*?orks occurs, F. Krenkow in Majallat al*Mojma% vol. mji (1935), p. 38S. 
^ 4 Full Arabic name nbu-al-Fatfr *Umar ibn-Ibrihlm al-Khayyarm (the tent- 
ttnker). On his life see Qifti, pp 243-4? Qazwtni. Alhdr, p, 318. 
k His Kuh&htit (quatram*), done first into English by FitzGerald (London, 1S59), 
( havt smce appeared m Trench, German, Italian,. Danish and Arabic translations. 


Maraghah observatory, whose first director was the illustrious 
NasTr-al-Din al-Tusi 1 (f 1274), the last of 'Abbasid astronomer- 
philosophers. The instruments at this observatory were much 
admired and included an armillary sphere, a mural quadrant 
and a solstitial armil. In this observatory NasTr-al-Din compiled 
new astronomical tables called al-Zij al-Il-Khdni in honour of 
Hulagu, the first Il-Khan. 2 The tables became popular through- 
out Asia, even in China. The foundations of this short-lived 
observatory are still extant. Close by it stood a library, also built 
by Hulagu, and said to have contained 400,000 volumes (?). 
Most of these books were pillaged by the Mongol armies from 
Syria, al-'Iraq and Persia. 

In astrology, a handmaid of astronomy, abu-Ma'shar (f 886), 
a native of Balkh in Khurasan who flourished at Baghdad, was 
the most distinguished figure. 3 He is the one most frequently 
cited as an authority in the Christian Middle Ages and under the 
name Albumasar figured as a prophet in the iconography. Four 
of his works were translated into Latin in the twelfth century by 
John of Seville and Adelard of Bath. Apart from his fantastic 
belief in astral influence as the cause of the birth, events of life 
and death of everything, abu^Ma'shar communicated to Europe 
the laws of the tides, which in a treatise he explained on the 
basis of the relation to the moon's rising and setting. 

Several of the Moslem works on astronomy were translated 
in course of time into Latin, especially in Spain, and exercised 
a determining influence on the development of the science in 
Christian Europe. 

The same Hindu scholar who brought to the court of al- 
Mansur the astronomical work Sindhind is credited with having 
also introduced Hindu arithmetical lore with its numeral system 
(called in Arabic Hindi) and the zero. 4 Al-FazarFs translation of 

J Ibn al-'Ibri, p 500, Rashid al-Din Fa# Allah, j£mi* aUTawdrikk, ed and tr. 
by Quatrcrncre as Htstatre des Mongols de la Pcrsc t vol. 1 (Pans, 1836), pp. 324 seq. 
(where the name occurs as Nasir al*Din)» 

1 See below, p 488, n I. * Fzhrist t p 277; ibn-Khalhkan, vol t, pp. 198*9 
* G Cocdcsin Bulletin School of Oriental Studies, \ol. vi (1931), pp. 323-8, notes 
the appearance of the Arabic figures and the zero early m the seventh Christian 
century in Indo-Chma, long before Us appearance in India proper. Both "zero", 
\\mch came to English from an Italian form, and "cipher", which appeared m 
English about 200 )ears earlier, come from Ar. sifr t which is a translation of a 
Sanskrit *ord meming "cmpV. According to a Syriac source cited by F. Nau 
in Journal anattoue, ser. 10, vol. xw (19 10), pp. 225 the numerals were known 
to a Syrian at the monastery of Qmnisnn in 662. 


the Hindu works was therefore responsible for making the 
numerals known to Islam. The tables of al-Khwarizrni and 
yabash al-IJasib (f between 867 and 874) probably spread the 
use of them throughout the Arabic world. But the Arab mathe- 
maticians and astronomers were slow to adopt the ingenious 
Hindu invention. As late as the eleventh century we find abu- 
Bakr Muhammad al-Karaji (wrongly Karkhi, f between 1019 
and 1029) still writing out in his al-K&fi fi al-ffisdS (the sufficient 
in arithmetic) all numbers in words. Others, following the old 
Semitic and Greek practice, used the letters of the alphabet, 
hisab al-jummaL Ahmad al-Nasawi 1 (f ca. 1040), whose aU 
Mitgni* fi at~Hisdb al-Hindi (the convincer on Hindu calcula- 
tion) explains the division of fractions and the extraction of the 
square and cubic roots in an almost modern manner, used the 
Indian numerals as had al-Khwarizmi before him. 

This al - Khwarizmi, 2 Muhammad ibn-Musa (780-^. 850), 
was the principal figure in the early history of Arabic mathe- 
matics. One of the greatest scientific minds of Islam, he influ- 
enced mathematical thought to a greater extent than any other 
medieval writer. Apart from compiling the oldest astronomical 
tables, 3 al-Khwarizmi composed the oldest work on arithmetic, 
known only in a translation, and the oldest work on algebra. 
The last, Hisab aUJabr w-al-Muq&balah (the calculation of 
integration and equation), presented through over eight hundred 
examples, some of which were anticipated by Neo-Babylonians, 
was his chief work, still surviving in Arabic. Translated in the 
twelfth century into Latin by Gerard of Cremona, this work of al- 
Khwarizmi was used until the sixteenth century as the principal 
mathematical text-book of European universities and served to 
introduce into Europe the science of algebra, and with it the 
name. Al-Khwarizmi's works were also responsible for the intro- 
duction into the West of the Arabic numerals called algorisms 
after him.* Among later mathematicians influenced by al- 
Khwarizmi are 'Umar al-Khayyam, Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa 
(f after 1240) and Master Jacob of Florence, whose Italian treatise 

4 * From Nasa In Khurasan. 

K.hvvurizttv whose name he bears, is modern KhTwa, a country on the lower 
C0U !! e . °f tlic ^ mu ^ arva (ancient Oxus). Tahari, vol- Hi, p 1364, calls him al- 
Majfisi, i.e. the descendant of a Magi an. 

* * Consult Fihrist, p. 274, copied by Qifti, p. 2S6. Cf. ibn-al-*lbn, p. 237. 
4 1 * "Alignm 11 , "nugrym", in Chaucer, A Treatise on the A$trolabe % pt, i, § 7 and § & 


on mathematics, dated 1307, contains, as does one of Leonardo's 
works, the six types of quadratic equations given by the Moslem 
mathematician. Al-Khayyam's algebra, 1 which marks a con- 
siderable advance on that of al-Khwarizmi, contains geometric 
and algebraic solutions of equations of the second degree and an 
admirable classification of equations. 
Wchemy After materia medica, astronomy and mathematics the Arabs 
made their greatest scientific contribution in chemistry. In the 
study of chemistry and other physical sciences the Arabs intro- 
duced the objective experiment, a decided improvement over 
the hazy speculation of the Greeks. Accurate in the observation 
of phenomena and diligent in the accumulation of facts, the 
Arabs nevertheless found it difficult to project proper hypo- 
theses. To draw truly scientific conclusions and elaborate a 
final system was the weakest point in their intellectual armour. 

The father of Arabic alchemy 2 was Jabir ibn-Fj[ ayyan 3 (Geber), 
who flourished in al-Kufah about 776. His name, after that of 
al-Razi (f 925), is the greatest in the field of medieval chemical 
science. Legend makes the Umayyad prince Khaiid ibn-Yazid 
ibn-Mu*awiyah (f 704) and the sixth imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq of 
al-Madinah (f 765), his teachers. Like his Egyptian and Greek 
forerunners Jabir acted on the assumption that base metals such 
as tin, lead, iron and copper could be transmuted into gold or 
silver by means of a mysterious substance, to the search for 
which he devoted his energy. He more clearly recognized and 
stated the importance of experimentation than any other early 
alchemist and made noteworthy advance in both the theory and 
practice of chemistry. Some two centuries after his death, as a 
street was being rebuilt in al-Kufah, his laboratory was found 
and in it a mortar and a large piece of gold were unearthed. 
Western tradition credits him with the discovery of several 
chemical compounds not mentioned in the twenty-two surviving 
Arabic works that bear his name. 4 Five of these works ascribed 
to Jabir, including Kitab al-Rah-mah (the book of mercy), 
Kitdb aUTq/mz (of concentration) and al-Ztbaq al-Sharqi (of 

1 Tr. Daoud S. Kasir, The Algebra of Omar Khayyam (New York, 1932). 

9 This word is Ar. al-kimty d% which goes hack through Gr, to an ancient Egyptian 
word meaning "black* . 

s Said to have been a Sabian converted to Shfah; according to others, descended 
from the South Arabian tribe al-Azd. Fthrist, pp, 354-5? Q lftl » PP- 160 61. 

* Jlaju Khalfah, passim, cites twenty-seven works. See Paul Kraus Jabir tin 
Ifay^an, vol, 1 (Cairo, 1943), pp« 3**70- 



Eastern mercury) have been published. It is evident that the 
vast majority of the hundred extant alchemical Avorks in Arabic 
and in Latin which pass under his name are spurious. Neverthe- 
less, the works to which his name was attached were after the 
fourteenth century the most influential chemical treatises in both 
Europe and Asia. Of a few contributions we are certain. Jabir 
described scientifically the two principal operations of chemistry: 
calcination and reduction. He improved on the methods for 
evaporation, sublimation, melting and crystallization. But the 
claim that he knew how to prepare crude sulphuric and nitric 
acids and mix them supposedly with salt so as to produce aqua 
regia is unsubstantiated. In general Jabir modified the Aristo- 
telian theory of the constituents of metal in a way that survived, 
with slight alterations, until the beginning of modem chemistry 
in the eighteenth century. 

Later Moslem chemists acclaim ibn-I^ayyan as their master. 
Even the best among them, e.g. the Arabic-writing Persian 
poet-statesman al-Tughra'i 1 (f m. 1121) and abu-al-Qasirn 
al-'Jraqi, who flourished in the second half of the thirteenth 
century, 2 made very little improvement on his methods. They 
continued the quest for the two alchemical will-o'-the-wisps: 
the philosopher's stone 3 and the elixir* of life. In fact in no branch 
of pure or physical science was any appreciable advance made 
after 'Abbasid days. The Moslems of today, if dependent on 
their own books, would have even less than their distant ancestors 
in the eleventh century. In medicine, philosophy, mathematics, 
botany and other disciplines a certain point was reached, and 
then followed a standstill. Reverence for the past with its tradi- 
tions, both religious and scientific, has bound the Arab intellect 
w ith fetters which it is only now beginning to shake off. It should, 
however, be noted to the eternal glory of medieval Islam that 
it succeeded for the first time in the history of human thought in 
harmonizing and reconciling monotheism, the greatest contri- 

1 Famous for his La ml) at al»Ajam % the ode rh\mxng in /for the non-Arabs. 
7* ugkr&'i means "chancellor", the one who writes at the top of state papers the elegant 
flourish containing: name and title of the ruler issuing the document Ibn Khalhkan, 
\ol. if pp. 2S4 se$. 

* See Hajji Khalfah, vol. m, p 218, vol. v, p. 47, vol. vi, p. 304. His aVIlm aU 
Muhtescb ft Ztr&at al~l>kcthab (knowledge acquired concerning the cultivation of 
gold) was edited and Englished by E J. Holn\>ard (Paris, 1923). 

* AUhbrU at ahmar, literally "the red sulphur" 

* From Ar. &l tfolr> originally Gr. 



bution of the ancient Semitic world, with Greek philosophy, 
the greatest contribution of the ancient Indo-European world, 
thus leading Christian Europe towards the modern point of 
view. 1 

In the field of natural history the Arabs' least striking success 
was in zoology, whereas the Spanish Moslems made a distinct 
contribution in botany, as we shall later see. Arabic writers on 
the animal kingdom were primarily literary men whose works 
consisted of collections of names and epithets given by the Arabs 
to animals and illustrated by quotations from the poets. The 
study of the horse formed one conspicuous exception and was 
developed almost to the rank of a science. A number of special 
monographs were composed on this animal, enumerating its 
varieties, naming the parts of its body, describing its colours and 
designating its desirable and undesirable qualities. 2 

An early representative of the zoological and anthropological 
sciences was abu-*Uthman c Amr ibn-Bahr al-Jahiz (the goggle- 
eyed, f 868-9), who flourished in al-Basrah and whose Kitab 
al-Hayawan (book of animals) is more theological and folkloric 
than biological. This work, in which the author quotes Aristotle, 
contains germs of later theories of evolution, adaptation and 
animal psychology. Al-Jaliiz knew how to obtain ammonia from 
animal offal by dry distillation. His influence over later zoolo- 
gists, e.g. the Arabic-writing Persian cosmographer al-Qazwmi s 
(f 1283) and the Egyptian al-Damiri (f 1405) — both of whom 
treated zoology as a branch of philology and literature — is mani- 
fest. AI-Damiri is the greatest Arab zoologist. 4 But the influence 
of al-Jahiz as a radical theologian and man of letters is greater. 
He founded a Mu'tazilite sect bearing his name 5 and was one of 
the most productive and frequently quoted scholars in Arabic 
literature. 8 His originality, wit, satire and learning made him 
widely known, but his repulsive ugliness made the Caliph al- 

1 Sic below, p 580. 

2 Consult al-A§ma*i, Kttdb al~Khayl % cd. August Hafiher (Vienna, 1895), lbn- 
Durayd in William Wright, Opuscula Arabica (Leydcn, 1S59); al-Kalbi, Naiab 
aUKhayl fi aUJdhxliyah w-al-Isldm and al-A'rabi, As ma Khayl a/'' Arab ua- 
Fursdmha, td. G. Levi della Vida (Lc>dcn, 1928). 

1 His leading work is *Ajaib aUMakhluqat wa-Ghara'tb aUAlauyuddt {the 
w onders of creation and the oddities of existence), ed. WOstenfeld (Gottmgen, 1849). 

* His ffaydt ol-Hayawdn (animal life) was printed in Cairo several times; tr, into 
English by A. S. G. Jayakar (London, 1906, 1908), voL i and vol. 11, pt. I. 

1 Baghdad!, cd. Hitti, pp. 117*18. 

* Yucjut, vol. vi, pp 75-8, lists over 120 books from his pen. 


Mutawakkil change his mind about appointing him tutor to his 
sons. 1 

In mineralogy, which stood in close relation to alchemy, the 
Arabs made little progress. Their fondness for precious stones 
and their interest in the occult qualities of minerals explains the 
many lapidaries, over fifty, composed by Arabic authors. Of 
these the oldest extant is that of 'Utarid ibn-Muhammad al- 
ii asib (possibly al-Katib s ) of the ninth century, but the best 
known is Azhar al-Afkdr fi Jaw&kir ai-Ahjdr (the flowers of 
thought on precious stones) by Shihab-al-Dln al-Tlfashi, a who 
died in Cairo, 1253* Al-Tlfashi discusses twenty-four precious 
stones: their origin > geography, purity, price, medicinal and 
magical values and, except for PJiny and the spurious Aristo- 
telian lapidary, quotes only Arabic sources. The famous al- 
Blruni with almost complete accuracy determined the specific 
gravity of eighteen precious stones and metals. 

The institution of the holy pilgrimage, the orientation of the 
mosques towards Makkah and the need for determining the 
direction of the Ka'bah at the time of prayer gave religious 
impetus to the Moslem study of geography. Astrology, which 
necessitated the determining of the latitudes and longitudes of 
all places throughout the world, added its scientific influence. 
Moslem traders between the seventh and ninth centuries reached 
China on the east both by sea and by land, attained the island 
of Zanzibar and the farthest coasts of Africa on the south, 
penetrated Russia on the north and were checked in their 
advance westward only by the dreaded waters of the "Sea of 
Darkness" (Atlantic). The reports of returning merchants 
naturally aroused popular interest in distant lands and alien 
peoples. Sulayman aKTajir (the merchant) of Siraf on the 
Persian Gulf, the account of whose journeys mto the Far East 
was written by an anonymous author in 851, gives us the 
first Arabic description of China and the coast-lands of India. 
Sulayman reports the use of finger-prints as signatures by the 
Chinese* 4 From this and similar narratives there gradually 

* Ibn*Kttalhl»an, vol. u\ pp, *oS*o, 

* Fikrisi, p, 278, ttis work Afanafi* al-Akj3r (the uses of precious stones) is 
preserved in manuscript form m the BibHotheque Nanonale, Paris; de Slane, 
C&fafrpitr da mmruscrtis crates (Pans, lSq,V5) f «0 2?/5 3 , 

* «L and tr, (UUian) Antonio ftaitim i&scu) {Florence, iSiS). 

4 Silstfat ttf'TaivirU&t ed. JLaitgic^p. 44 Cf. tr. by E. Renaudot {London* 1733), 
p» 26; Af&Sr &f*$in uw-^/fotct, «5L and tr. J* Sauvaget {Paris, 194b), p 19. 



evolved the stories that have clustered round the name of 
Sindbad the Sailor. The earliest reliable account of Russia is 
that of Ahmad ibn-Fadian ibn-rjammad, sent in 921 by ai- 
Muqtadir to the king of the Bulgars, who resided along the 
Vo)ga. Most of his account is reproduced in Yaqut's monumental 
geographical dictionary, Mujam aUBuldan. Al-Mas'udi 1 refers 
to Moslem traders among al-Dir, Slavic tribes perhaps near the 
Pripet, a tributary of the Dnieper. 
Greek Ptolemy's Geography \ which had a list of places located by 
cedents latitude and longitude, was translated into Arabic either directly 
or through Syriac several times, notably by Thabit ibn-Qurrah 
(f 901). With this as a model the celebrated Khwarizmi had com- 
posed his Surat al-A rd z (image of the earth), which served as a 
basis for later works and stimulated geographical studies and the 
composition of original treatises. Al-Khwarizmi's work was ac- 
companied by an " image of the earth", a map executed by him 
and sixty-nine other scholars at the instigation of al-Ma'mun — 
the first map of the heavens and the world in Islam. Al-Mas*udi, 3 
who flourished in the f.rst half of the tenth century, consulted 
this map. Al-Khwarizmi's geography continued to influence 
Moslem authors oown to the fourteenth century, as is illustrated 
by abu-al-Fida\ 

"World In the meantime the early Arab geographers had gained from 
cupola" j ncl j a the not j on t j iat t h ere was a wor ici centre which they styled 

arin* a corruption of the name of the Indian town Ujjayini 
(Ozenc in Ptolemy's Geography), where there had been an astro- 
nomical observatory and on the meridian of which the "world 
cupola" 5 or "summit" was supposed to lie. This arln they located 
on the equator between the extremes of east and west. The 
western prime meridian was thought by them to be 90 0 from 
this mythical place. Moslem geographers in general measured 
longitude from the prime meridian used by Ptolemy, that of the 
islands now called the Canaries* 

The first independent geographical treatises in Arabic took 
the form of road books in which itineraries occupied a prominent 
place. Ibn-Khurdadhbih (f ea. 912), of Persian descent, director 

1 Vol m, p. 64. * £d Hans v Uhk (Leipzig, 1926). 3 Vol n, p. 308. 

* Variants Ujjam, Uzayn, Udhayn^z. Ibn-Ru&tih, p. 22, 1. 17, Mas'udt Tanblh t 
p 225, i 2, abu-al-Fida\ cd Remand and dc Slane, p. 376, U. S, 12. 

* Qubbat ahard, abu-al-Ftd V, pp 375, 376, ibn-Rustah, p. 22, U. 17 Bironi, 
Tahqlq, p. 15S. 


of the post and intelligence service in al-Jibal (Media), initiated 
the series with his al-Masalik w-ai-Mamdlik? the first edition of 
which appeared about 846. This work, especially valuable for its 
historical topography, was used by ibn-al-Faqih, ibn-Sawqal, 
al-Maqdisi and later geographical writers. In 891-2 the Shi* ite 
ibn-Wadih al-Ya'qubi, 2 who flourished in Armenia and Khu- 
rasan, produced his Kitdb al-Bufdan* (book of countries), which 
struck a new note in emphasizing topographical and economical 
detail. Soon after 928 Qudamah, who was born a Christian but 
adopted Islam and held office as revenue accountant in the 
central administration at Baghdad, completed his al-Kharaj* 
which discusses the division of the caliphate into provinces, thfe 
organization of the postal service and the taxation for each dis- 
trict. Another Arab geographer of Persian origin, ibn-Rustah, 
compiled about 903 his al~A*ldq al-Nafisah 1 (precious bags of 
travelling provisions). In that same year ibn-al-Faqlh al-Hama- 
dhani, so called from his birthplace, completed his Kitab aU 
Buldanf a comprehensive geography often quoted by al-Maqdisi 
and Yaqut, 

The great systematic geographers of the Arabs do not make 
their appearance until the advent of al-Istakhri, ibn-Hawqal and 
ai-Maqdisi in the middle of the fourth Moslem century. Born in 
Istakhr (Persepolts), aUstakhri flourished about 950 and pro- 
duced his Masaiik al-Mamalik* with coloured maps for each 
country. This work was an elaboration of the geographical 
system established by abu-Zayd al-Balkhi (f 934), who flourished 
at the Samanid court and whose work has not been preserved. 
The system initiated by al-Balkhi and al-Istakhri paid httle 
attention to countries outside Islam and made the text largely a 
description of the accompanying maps. Its representatives were 
travellers themselves, Al-Istakhri is the second writer to mention 
windmills (in Sijistan), the first reference to them having been 
made by al~Mas f udi. 7 At al-Istakhri's request ibn-Hawqal (fl. 
943-77)i w ho travelled as far as Spain, revised the maps and 
text of his geography* Ibn-FIawqal later rewrote the whole book 

1 Ed. dc Goejc (Lejdea, 1SS9). 

* Al-*Abb3sr, Yaqut, vol. it, pp. 156*7, 

* Ed. de Gocjc (Leyden, iSc^). ~ * Ed. de Goeje (Lcyden, 1891-2), 
1 XA, de Gocje (Leyden, * Ed. de Goeje (Leydea. 2870). 

* Vol. h, p. So. For an illustration see Dimashqi, NuMfat al'Daht Jt 'Ajaib 
tf-Sarr te~c*'Bajir (St. Petersburg, iS56), p. 182. 


and issued it under his own name as al-Masdlik w-aUMamaliky 
To this same school belongs the more original work of al* 
Maqdisi (or al-Muqaddasi), so called because he was born in 
Jerusalem (JBayt al-Maqdis). This geographer visited all the 
Moslem lands except Spain, Sijistan and India and in 985-6 
embodied an account of his twenty years of travel in a delightful 
work, A/jsa?i al-Taqasim fi Mdrifat al-Aqallm? (the best of 
classification for the knowledge of regions), which contains 
much valuable and fresh information. 

In this same period flourished the Yamanite geographer and 
archaeologist al-Hasan ibn-Ahmad al-Hamdani, who died (945) 
in a prison at San a* and whose two works al-Iklil z and St/at 
Jazirat al-'ATab* constitute an important contribution to our 
knowledge of pre-Islamic and Islamic Arabia. The globe-trotter 
al-Mas*udi, who flourished in this period, we shall treat of with 
the historians. In the mineral ogical part of their epistles 6 the 
Ikhwan al-Safa 5 , who also belong to this time, elaborated a 
theory of cosmic cycles by which cultivated lands become desert, 
desert lands become cultivated, steppes change into seas and seas 
change into steppes or mountains. 
Vaqot Before the close of the *Abbasid age lived the greatest of the 
Eastern Moslem geographers, Yaqut 6 ibn-'Abdullah al-rjamawi 
(u 79-1 229), author of the geographical dictionary MtCjam 
al-Buldan? often cited in the foregoing pages, and of the equally 
important dictionary of literati Mujavi al-Udaba\ Born in Asia 
Minor of Greek parents, young Yaqut was bought in Baghdad 
by a merchant from rjamah (hence his surname al-rjamawi) 
who, after giving him a good education and employing him for 
several years as a travelling clerk, enfranchised him. To support 
himself Yaqut roamed from place to place copying and selling 
manuscripts. In 1219-20 he had to flee before the Tartar invasion 
of Khwarizm "as naked as he shall be when raised from the 
dust of the grave on the day of the resurrection". 8 The first 

1 Ed. de Goeje (Leyden, 1873); another version, $urat cl-Ard^zA. J. H. Kramers, 
2\ols (Le> den, 1938-9). 
1 Ed. de Goeje (Lejden, 1S77;. 1 See above, p. 50, n 2. 

* Ed, D, H. Muller, 2 vols. (Leyden, 1884-91). 

* Ed. Zmkli, vol 11, pp. So seq. Cf. Mas'udi, Tanbih, p. 3. 

• The word means "ruby". Staves were often given names of precious things, 
e g. Lu'Iu* (pearl), Jauhar (gem). 

7 Ed. F. WGstenfdd, 6 vols. (Leipzig, 1866-73). 

• lbn-Khalhkan, vol. hi, p. 162 «de blane, vol. iv, p. 10. 


dr^ft of his geographical dictionary was drawn at al-Mawsil in 
1224 and the final redaction was completed in 1228 at Aleppo, 
where he died. This Mu'jam, in which names of places are alpha- 
betically arranged, is a veritable encyclopaedia, containing, in 
addition to the whole fund of geographical knowledge of the 
age, valuable information on history, ethnography and natural 

Literary Islamic geography left no direct impression on Euro- 
pean medieval thought, as the works of these geographers found 
no translators into Latin. Certain aspects of astronomical 
geography, including an approximately correct theory of the 
causation of tides, worked out by abu-Ma'shar, and of the length 
of the terrestrial degree, did find their way into the West, the 
latter through a translation of ai-Farghani's work on astronomy. 
Likewise fragments of the geographical lore of the Greeks as 
exemplified by Aristotle and Ptolemy were reintroduced to the 
West through the Arabs. But most of the contribution of the 
Arab geographers failed to pass on. This contribution included 
descriptive geography of the Far East, East and Sudanese 
Africa and the steppe land of Russia; more accurate cartography, 
especially in the form of world maps; and provincial geography, 
where one country is taken as a unit and the relation between 
the lives of die people and the physical environment is shown. 
The primary interest of the Latin Occident in Arabic books 
had for its object the preparation of calendars, star tables and 
horoscopes and the interpretation of the hidden meaning in the 
words of the Scriptures through commentaries on Aristotle. The 
bulk of this scientific material, whether astronomical, astrologi- 
cal or geographical, penetrated the West through Spanish and 
Sicilian channels. The contributions of al-Bitruji of Cordova, 
al-Zarqfvli of Toledo and ai-Idrisi of Palermo will be discussed 
under Spain and Sicily. 

The majority of the earliest historical writings surviving in 
Arabic date from the 'Abbasid period. Few of those composed 
under the Umayyads have been preserved. The first subject- 
matter came, as we have learned before, from the oral legends 
and anecdotes relating to pre-Islamic days and from the religious 
traditions which clustered round the name and life of the 
Prophet. In the pre-Islamic field Hisham aJ-Kalbi of al-Kufah 
(t s *9) particularly distinguished himself. Of the one hundred 


and twenty-nine works listed in al-Fikri$t x as his, only three 
have survived; 2 but extracts from others can be found quoted by 
al-Tabari, Yaqut and other historical writers* 

The first work based upon religious traditions was the Strat 
Rasiil Allah, the biography of the Prophet by Muhammad ibn- 
Ishaq of al-Madinah, whose grandfather Yasar was among the 
Christian children captured in 633 by Khalid ibn-al-Walld at 
c Ayn al-Tamr in al-'Iraq. 3 This biography by ibn-Ishaq, who 
died in Baghdad about 767, has come down to us only in the 
later recension of ibn-Hisham,* who died in 834 at Cairo. 5 
Then came works dealing with the early wars and conquests of 
Islam, the Maghazi by Musa ibn-'Uqbah 6 (f 758), by al- 
Waqidi 7 (f 822/3), both of al-Madinah, and by others. From the 
pen of ibn-Sa f d, who died in Baghdad in 845 and is known as 
the secretary of al-Waqidi, 8 we have the first great book of 
classified biographies 9 containing sketches of the lives of the 
Prophet, the Companions and their Successors {al-idbfiin) 
down to his own time. Two of the leading historians of the 
Moslem conquests were the Egyptian ibn-*Abd-al-Hakam 
(f S70-71), whose Futuh Misr wa-AMddmha 10 is the earliest 
extant document on the conquest of Egypt, North Africa and 
Spain, and the Arabic -writing Persian Ahmad ibn-Yahya 
al-Baladhuri (f 892), whose main works were the Futuh ai- 
Bulddn 11 and the Ansab al-Ashrdf 1 * (book of the lineages of 
nobles). Al-Baladhuri was one of the first to integrate the many 
stories of the conquests of various cities and lands into one 
comprehensive whole, thus ending the era in which the mono- 
graph was the typical form of historical composition. 

Ihe time was now ripe for formal historical composition 
ba^ed on these legends, traditions, biographies, genealogies and 

1 95-S 

1 Of these the best known is the Kttab al Afttam t ed. Afcmad Zaki (Cairo, 1914). 

* Ibn-Khatiikan, \6i. n, p. 282* 

4 Ed Wustenfcld, 2 \ols (Gothngen, 1858-60). 

5 Ibn KhalUk&n, vol i, p 520 

* Compiled by ibn Qadi Shuhbah in 1387. 

7 Ed \on Kremer (Calcutta, 1856). See lbn-Khallikan, vol u, pp 324 6 
1 Jbn-Khalhkan, vol 11, p 326 

* Ed Sichau et a! ,9 vols (Levden and Bcrkn, 1904-28) 
3 * Ed Chirlcs C Torrey (New Ha\en, 1922) 

" Ed de Goeje (Lc>den, 1866), tr. Hith, The Origins of tie Islamic State (New 
York, 1916), first part, second part, F. C. Murgottcn (New York, 1924) 

" rd W. Ahl\vardt,\ol xi (Grcifswald, 1883), S. D. F. Goitein, vol, v Oerusalera, 
1936), Max Schloessmger, \ol iv B (Jerusalem, 1938) 


narratives. The model was evidently Persian and was provided by 
such works as the Pahlawi Khudhay-namak (the book of kings), 
which had been turned into Arabic by ibn-al-MuqanV (f 757) 
under the title Siyar Muluk al-Ajam. The concept of a world 
history in which early events are but a prelude to the history 
of Islam goes back to Jewish-Christian tradition. The form 
of presentation, however, continued to be that of the stereo- 
typed Islamic tradition. 1 Each event is related in the words 
of eye-witnesses or contemporaries and transmitted to the 
final narrator, the author, through a chain of intermediary 
reporters. This technique served to develop exactitude, as did 
also the insistence on dating occurrences even to the month and 
day. But the authenticity of the reported fact generally depended 
upon the continuity of this chain {isnad) and the confidence in 
the integrity of each reporter rather than upon a critical examina- 
tion of the fact itself. Apart from the use of personal judgment 
in the choice of the series of authorities and in the arrangement 
of the data, the historian exercised very little power of analysis, 
criticism, comparison or inference. 

Among the first formal historians was ibn-Qutaybah, properly 
Muhammad ibn-Muslim al-Dlnawari. 2 Ibn-Qutaybah died at 
Baghdad in 889 after producing his Kitdb aUMadrtf* (book of 
knowledge), a manual of history. Another was his contemporary 
abu-yanlfah Ahmad ibn-Dawud al-Dinawari 4 (f 895), who 
flourished in Isbahan (Isfahan) and Dtnawar (in the Persian 
r Iraq). His principal work was al~Akhbar al-Tiwdl* (long 
narratives), a universal history from the Persian point of view. 
Both were of Iranian extraction and produced several literary 
and philological works besides histories. At the same time 
flourished the geographer and historian ibn-Wadih al-Ya qubi, 
whose compendium of universal history * ending in A.H. 258 (872) 
preserves the ancient and unfalsified Shfite tradition. To this 
group belongs rjlamzah aHsfahani, who worked in Isbahan, 
where he died ca. 9C1, and whose rather critical annals 7 became 

1 Sec be!o\v, p. 394. 

* Sttfrkrist, pp. 77*8; Nawa>sw, Tahdhib, p. 771; Sam anj, Ansab> fol. 443a. 

* Ed. Wttstenfeld (Gottingcn, 1850). 

* See Fthrist, p. 7S; Yaqut, Udabd\ vol. i, pp. 123-7. 

* Ed. Vladimir Gmrgass (Uyden, iSSS). 

* T<?rikh 9 cd. TK Houtsma, z vols. (Leyden, JS83). 

1 TJrfte Stm MulSk ahA?4 wai-Anbtytf, cd. I. M. E. Gottwaldt (Lcipoe. 
1S44); tr. into Latin by Gott\va!dt (Leipzig, 1848). 


known comparatively early in modern Europe. Another great 
historian of Persian stock was Miskawayh 1 (f 1030), who held a 
high office in the court of the Buwayhid r Adud-al-Dawlah and 
compiled a universal history 2 reaching down toA.H. 369(979-80). 
Miskawayh, who was also a philosopher and physician, ranks 
among the leading Moslem historians, of whom the two greatest 
were undoubtedly al-Tabari and al Mas*udi. 
Ai-Tabati The fame of abu-Ja f far Muhammad ibn-Jarir al-Tabari (838- 
923), who was born in Tabaristan, that mountainous district of 
Persia along the south coast of the Caspian Sea, rests on his 
remarkably elaborate and accurate history TaWtkh al-Rustd 
w-aUMuluk z (annals of the apostles and kings), as well as on his 
commentary on the Koran. 4 In his commentary, originally com- 
posed on a far larger scale, he made not only the earliest but the 
largest collection of exegctical traditions. This became a standard 
work upon which later koranic commentators drew. His monu- 
mental work on universal history, the first complete one in the 
Arabic tongue, likewise served as a source for later historians 
such as Miskawayh, ibn-al-Athir and abu-al-Fida*. Like most 
Moslem historians, al-Tabari arranges the events chronologi- 
cally, tabulating them under the successive years of the Hijrah. 
In fact his history begins with the creation of the world and goes 
down to A.H. 302 (915). The same annalistic method was used 
by al-Waqidi and others before him as well as by Miskawayh, 
ibn-al-Athir, abu-al-Fida 5 (1273-1331) and al-Dhahabi 6 (1274- 
1348) after him. The original edition of al-Tabari's history is 
said to have been ten times as long as the surviving edition. His 
favourite method of presenting the narrative is that of the 
religious tradition, by tsnad. Besides making use of the literary 
sources extant in his day, such as the works of ibn-Ishaq, al- 
Kalbi, al-Waqidi, ibn-Sa'd and ibn-al-Muqaffa' and of several 
historical translations from Persian, al-Tabari procured data for 
his history from oral traditions collected during his travels and 
from the lectures of the sheikhs under whom he studied in 

1 kess correctly *'ibn- Miskawayh", Yaqut, vol ii, p. 88; QiffT, p 331, 

* Taj art b al-Umam> cd A. T. Amedroz, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1914-21); tr. D. S. 
MargoUouth, The Experiences of (he £faltons % 2 -vols (Oxford, I921). 

3 Ed dcGoejcr/c/, 15 \ols (Leydcn, 1879-1901). 

4 Jam? al Bayan fi To/sir al Qufan, 30 \ols (Bulaq, 1323-9). 

* See lus Tarikh, also called al-AIvkhiasor ft Akhbar at Basher % 4 rols, (Con« 
ftintmople, 12S6) 

* See his Duwal al Islam , 2 vols. (Ha>darabud, 1337). 


Baghdad and other intellectual centres. His journeys in quest of 
learning covered Persia, al~ e Iraq, Syria and Egypt, 1 On one 
occasion he was forced to sell the sleeves of his shirt to buy bread 
for sustenance. An idea of his industry and enthusiasm for 
learning may be gained from the popular tradition that during 
forty years al-Tabari wrote forty sheets every day. 3 

Abu-al-9asan r Ali al-Mas'Gdi, 3 styled the "Herodotus of the 4 
Arabs", inaugurated among the Arabs the topical method of 
writing history. Instead of grouping his events around years he 
grouped them around dynasties^ kings and peoples, a treatment 
followed by ibn-KhaJdun and minor historians. He was also one 
of the first to make good use of the historical anecdote. Young 
al-Mas'udi, who belonged to the rationalistic school of Mu'tazi- 
lites, undertook the usual scholar's "journey in quest of learning" 
which carried him from his native Baghdad 4 into almost every 
country of Asia and even into Zanzibar, The last decade of his 
life he spent in Syria and Egypt compiling the material into a 
thirty-volume work, surviving in an epitome, Afuruj aUDkahab 
sua-Maadin al-Jawh&r 6 (meadows of gold and mines of gems). 
In this encyclopaedic historico-geographicai work the author, 
with catholicity and scientific curiosity, carried his researches 
beyond the typically Moslem subjects into Indo-Persian, Roman 
and Jewish history* At its beginning he states that what is now 
dryland had been sea, and what is sea had been dry land — all as 
a result of physical forces. Before his death at al-Fustat in 957 
al-Mas f udi summarized his philosophy of history and nature 
and the current philosophers* views on the gradation between 
minerals, plants and animals 6 in aUTanbtk w-al-Ishrdf? com- 
parable to Pliny's. 

Arabic historical composition reached its highest point in 
al-Tabari and ai-Mas'udi, and after Miskawayh (f 1030) 
started on a rapid decline. *Izz-al-Dln ibn-al~Athir s (1160- 
1254) abridged in his al-Kamil fi al-Tc?rikh* (the complete book 

* mrisu p. 254. * Yaqut, vol. vi, p. 424, 
9 A descendant of 'Abdullah ibn-Mas'fid. 

* Fihtist) p. 154, Txrvngly makes Kim a native of al-Maghrib. Cf. Y&qfit, vol. v t 
P« 14$. 

* Ed. and tr, de Mcvnard and de CourtcUle, 9 vols. (Paris, 1861-77). 

* Cf. Ikhwan, Retail, vol. i, pp. 247-8. 7 Ed. de Goeje (Leyden, 1893-4). 

* Bora in JasSrai ibn^Umar on the Tigris, flourished in al-Mawsil. Ibn*KhaJIikan, 
ii, pp, 35-6. 

* Ed* C* J. Tomberg, 13 vok. (Lcydcn, 1867-74!. 



of chronicles) al-Tabari's work and continued the narrative to 
1 23 1. The period dealing with the Crusades is an original 
contribution. Ibn-al-Athlr produced another important work, 
Usd al-Gkabah 1 (the lions of the thicket), a collection of 7500 
biographies of the Companions. His contemporary Sibt ibn-al- 
Jawzi 2 (1 1 86-1257), who was born in Baghdad and whose father 
was a Turkish slave, wrote among other works the Mir y at aU 
Zaman fi Tartkh al-Ayydm, a universal history from Creation 
to 1256.* To this late 'Abbasid period belongs the chief judge 
of Syria, ibn-Khallikan (f 1282), the first Moslem to compose 
what we might term a dictionary of national biography. Before 
him Yaqut had issued his dictionary of literati and ibn-'Asakir 
(t 11 77) nac * sketched in eighty volumes the biographies of 
distinguished men connected with his native town, Damascus.* 
Like most other treasures of historical and geographical lore 
written in a foreign tongue the works of al-Tabari, al-Mas'udi, 
ibn-al-Atlur and their confreres remained inaccessible to 
medieval Occidental readers. In modern times many have been 
translated in part or in full into modern European tongues. This, 
however, does not mean that the Arabic authors made no con- 
tribution to the social sciences. In appreciating their work in this 
and other disciplines Sarton 6 enthusiastically declares: 'The 
main task of mankind was accomplished by Muslims. The 
greatest philosopher, al-Farabl, was a Muslim; the greatest 
mathematicians, Abu Kamil* and Ibrahim ibn Sinan, 7 were 
Muslims; the greatest geographer and encyclopaedist, al- 
Mas'udT, was a Muslim; the greatest historian, al-Tabari, was 
still a Muslim". 

Theology We now come to those intellectual activities evoked by the 
predilections of the Arabs as Arabs and Moslems. Foremost 
among the sciences thus developed were theology, tradition, 

1 5 vols. (Cairo, 1280). 

* This surname he ou es to his famous maternal grandfather, ibn«al-Jawri (f izoi). 
8 Extracts cd and tr. in Rtcuttl des histonens des croisades: histonens orzentaux, 

vol iu (Paris, 1884), Pt. 8 was reproduced in facsimile by James R. Jewett (Chicago, 

4 Al-Tt?rlkk aUKablr, ed. *Abd-al-Qadir Badran and Arunad 'Ubayd (Damascus 
1329-51)! first seven volumes. 

* Introduction to ike History of Science t vol. i (Baltimore, 1 927), p. 624. 

* Shuja* lbn-Aslam of Egypt, who at the beginning of the tenth century perfected 
al'Klmarizmi's algebra. 

1 Grandson of Thlbit ibn-Qurrah, lived 908-46. His quadrature of the parabola 
was the simplest ever made before the invention of integral calculus. 


jurisprudence; philology, and linguistics. Most of the scholars in 
this field "were of Arab descent/ in contrast to the physicians, 
astronomers, mathematicians and alchemists cited above, who 
were of Syrian, Jewish or Persian origin. , 

The attention and interest of the Moslem Arabs were drawn 
quite early to those branches of learning motivated by the 
religious impulse. The necessity of comprehending and explain- 
ing the Koran soon became the basis of intensive theologic as 
well as linguistic study. Contact with Christendom provoked in 
the first century at Damascus theological speculation leading to 
the rise of the Murji'ite and Qadarite schools of thought. 1 

Next to the holy Koran, the sunnah, 2 i.e. the deeds, utterances 
and silent approval (taqrir) of the Prophet, stood as the most 
important doctrinal source. Transmitted at first orally, this 
sunnah of Muhammad was fixed during the second century in 
the form of written hadlths. A hadith, therefore, is a record of an 
action or saying of the Prophet. In a more general sense it may 
be used also for a record of an action or saying of any of his 
Companions or their Successors. 8 Though not equally canonical 
with the Koran, the Prophetic hadith nevertheless exerted an 
equally great influence over the development of Islamic thought. 
In the hadith Muhammad speaks; in the Koran Allah speaks, 
In the hadith the meaning only is inspired; in the Koran the 
meaning and the word are inspired. The bases of jurisprudence 
(fiqh) as well as of theology are firstly in the Koran, secondly in 
the hadith. Among all peoples Moslems stand unique in having 
developed a science £zlm) out of their mass of religious traditions 

To the pious Moslem the science of hadith soon became 
the science par excellence. 4 It was primarily in its quest 
that the would-be scholar, in response to the famous Prophetic 
tradition, VSeekye learning though it be in China", undertook 
long and tiresome journeys throughout the extensive domains 
of the caliphate. Such journeys (al-rihtak fi talab al*ihti)* 

1 Other Moslem sects will be treated in the following chapter. 
* Btyniologically meaning "custom," "use**, the word has developed several 
technical meanings. In opposition to SliTah, it is used for the theory and practice 
of the catholic Moslem community. 
, * See above, p. 242, 
^ Consult the chapter on V/m in BuMiari, vol. i, pp. 19 scq 
t * X^nsu1tibn*KhaId5n, Mu$«ddcmttk, p, 476; Alfred GuiUuuroe, The Tradition* 
tf Ishm (Oxford, 1024), pp. 6S 9. 


were elevated into acts of consummate piety; he who lost his 
life through their perils was likened to him who Jost it in the 
holy war. 

In the course of the first two and a half centuries after Muham- 
mad the records of his sayings and doings increased in number 
and copiousness. Whenever an issue — religious, political or 
sociological — arose each party sought to find authority for its 
views in some word or decision of the Prophet, be it real or 
fictitious. The political rivalry between *Ali and abu-Bakr, the 
struggle between Mu'awiyah and *Ali, the enmity between the 
*Abbasids and Umayyads, the burning question of superiority 
between Arabs and non-Arabs — these and similar exigencies 
provided ample opportunity for the fabrication of hadlths and 
motivated their dissemination. Moreover, the manufacture of 
hadiths had commercial value and many teachers thrived on it 
Before his execution* at al-Kufah in 772, ibn-abi-aI-*Awja* con* 
fessed to having circulated 4000 traditions of his own invention. 1 
In general more weight is attached to the Madmcse than to the 
Kufan school of traditions, yet here again not all transmitters 
are above suspicion. Abu-Hurayrah f for instance, a Companion 
of the Prophet and a most zealous propagator of his words and 
deeds, reputedly transmitted some 5374 hadlths, 3 many of which 
were unquestionably foisted on him after his death. 'A'ishah 
transmitted 2210 traditions, Anas ibn-Malik 2286 and*Abdullah 
ibn^Umar ibnral-Khattab 1630. 3 

Every perfect hadtth consists of two parts: a chain of author- 
ities (isnad) and a text (tnatn). The text follows the chain and 
should be in direct address: A related {haddatkd) to me that B 
related to him, on the authority of C, on the authority of D, on 
the authority of E, who said . - . . The same formula was used in 
historiography and in wisdom literature. In all these fields 
criticism was usually external, being limited to a consideration 
of the reputation of the transmitters, who are at the same time 
guarantors, and to the possibility of their forming an uninter- 
rupted chain leading back to the Prophet. On the basis of such 
criticism hadiths are classified as genuine (sahVj), fair (hasan) 

1 Tabari, vol. hi, p. 376, copied by xbn-al-Athlr, vol. vi, p. 3. Cf. Baghdadi, ed. 
Hitti, p. 164. 

* Ibn-Hajar, I$abah y vol. vii, p. 201, His title "abu-Hurayrah", "father of the 
kitten", was due to his fondness for cats; ibn-Qutaybah, Ma*anf t p. 141; ibn-Sa'd, 
vol. iv, pt, 2, p. 55. * Nawawi, pp. 165, 358. 


and weak (da'tf)} The ludicrous extreme to which this external 
criticism may lead is illustrated la the story of a traditionist who 
accepted a large cup of wine offered him by a Christian* and 
when reminded that this was a prohibited drink bought by the 
Christian's slave from a Jew his excuse was: "We traditionists 
consider as authority such men as Sufyan ibn-'Uyaynah and 
YazTd ibn-Harun. Are we then to believe a Christian, on the 
authority of his slave, on the authority of a Jew? By Allah, I 
drank it only because of its weak isnad*"* 

The third Moslem century saw the compilation of the various ' 
collections of hadrths into six books which have since become ! 
standard. Of "the six books'* the first and most authoritative 
is that of Muliammad ibn-Isma r Jl al-Bukhari (Sto-70). 3 Al- 
Bukhari, who was a Persian, selected out of the 600,000 traditions 
he collected from iodo sheikhs in the course of sixteen years of 
travel and labour in Persia, aKIraq, Syria, aWftijaz and Egypt 
some 7397 traditions 4 which he classified according to subject- 
matter, such as prayer, pilgrimage and holy war. Before com- 
mitting a tradition to writing it was ai-Bukhari's wont to 
perform the ceremonial ablution and prayer. 5 His collection has 
acquired a quasi-Sacred character. An oath taken on it is valid, 
as if taken on the Koran itself. Next to the Koran this is the be ok 
that has exerted the greatest influence over the Moslem mind. 
Its author's tomb outside of Samarqand is still visited by pil- 
grims who accord him the next rank in Islam after Muhammad. 

Al-Bukhari's corpus of traditions came near finding a rival 
in the collection of Muslim ibn-al-IJajjaj (f 875) of Naysabur, 
a work on which Islam has conferred the same title, al~$ahih % 
the genuine collection. The contents of Muslim's Salnfc are 
almost identical with ai-Bukhari's, though the isnad may vary. 
Next to these "two genuine books" come four others which 
Moslems have elevated to canonical rank. These are the Sunan 
of abu*D5wud of al-Basrah (f 888), the JamC of al-Timndhi 
(f 892), the Sunan of ibn-Majah of Qazwtn (f 886) and the 
Sman of ai-Nasa'i, who died at Makkah in 91 5. 6 

* Consult iWAsUirj TVfte*, vol, ii, pp. iS seg4 ibn-Khaldfln, Mugeddarrtah, 
pp. 370 se?. 

* Nawatu tfaibaht p. 17. * Al-Jan? at*$ahiti t S vols. (Bulaq, 1296). 

* Nawawi, pp : 93, 05-6. * Ibxi*Khalbkan, vol. «, p. 

* Various editions of these works, but none critical, have been printed or litho- 
graphed m Egypt and India, 



Besides clarifying and supplementing the Koran, the hadlth 
literature provided the Moslem community with apostolic 
precept and example covering the whole range of man's duty. 
Even such trivial questions as the proper way of cutting a water- 
melon before eating it or cleaning the teeth with a toothpick — 
"proper" from the standpoint of the Prophetic practice — did not 
escape the traditionists* researches. The nocturnal journey 
vaguely reported in one solitary koranic verse (17:1) developed in 
the hadlth an extensive and colourful crop of elaborate traditions 
with which the Occident has long been familiar as reflected in 
the pages of Dante, The hadlth literature further served as a 
vehicle for transmitting wise sayings, anecdotes, parables and 
miracles — all ascribed to Muhammad — from various secular and 
religious sources, including the New Testament. In abu-Dawud 1 
a version of the Lord's Prayer is put in Muhammad's mouth. In 
al-Bukhari 2 and Muslim, 3 Muhammad, on the authority of 
abu-Hurayrah, upon whom many such pious and edifying 
sayings are fathered, once commended "him who gives alms 
only in secret, so that his left hand knows not what his right 
hand does". Nothing could better illustrate the general recept- 
ivity and hospitality of Islam as a system. In the hadlth lore the 
Moslem home found its fireside literature and the Moslem 
community its Talmud, 
juris- After the Romans the Arabs were the only medieval people 
prudence %v j )Q cu ]tivated the science of jurisprudence and evolved there- 
from an independent system. Their system,^// 4 as they called 
it, was primarily based on the Koran and the sunnah (i.e. 
hadtth), styled upll (roots, fundamental principles) and influ- 
enced by the Greco-Roman system. Ftqh was the science through 
which the canon law of Islam (sAarfafi*), the totality of Allah's 
commandments as revealed in the Koran and elaborated in the 
hadlth, was communicated to later generations. These com- 
mandments embrace regulations relative to ritual and worship 
Qibdddt), civil and legal obligations (mttamaldt) and punish- 
ments ^t<qubdf). 

Of the six thousand verses or thereabouts in the Koran only 
about two hundred, most of which occur in the Madinese portion, 

* {Cairo, 12S0), vol. 11, p. 101. 

* (Delhi, 1319}, vol. i, p. 331. 

* Literally "road to the watering place' 

a Vol. u, p 105. 

4 Literally "knowledge'*, "wisdom" 
"clear path to be followed". 


especially surahs two and four, may be classed as strictly legis- 
lative. It soon became evident that these statutes were not 
sufficient to cover all cases — civil, criminal, political, financial — 
which might and did arise under the new conditions and varied 
situations encountered in Syria, al-*Iraq and other conquered 
territories. Hence the necessity for speculation. Speculation gave 
rise to two new fundamental principles: gzyds, i.e. analogical 
deduction, and ijma, Le. catholic consent. Thus did Moslem 
jurisprudence come to have two new roots in addition to the 
Koran and tradition: analogy and consensus of opinion. As for 
ray t i.e. private judgment, though often resorted to, it was 
never quite elevated to the rank of a fifth fundamental principle. 
A traditional discourse between the Prophet and his appointee 
as qadi over al-Yaman, Mu'adh ibn-Jabal, sums up the Magna 
Charta of Islamic legal fundamentals: 

Muhammad: "How wilt thou decide when a question arises?" 
Muadh; "According to the Book of Allah". 
Muhammad: "And if thou findest naught therein?" 
Muddfc "Accortimg* £0 tfie sxtanah of the Messenger of Allots 
Muhammad; "And if thou findest naught therein?" 
Muadh: "Then shall I apply my own reasoning". 1 

The leader of the 'Iraq school, which insisted on the right of 
juridical speculation in contrast to the Madinah school, which 
attached special importance to hadlth, 2 was abu-yamfah, 
properly al-Nu f man ibn-Thabit. Abu-rji anlfah was the grandson 
of a Persian slave, 3 flourished in al-Kufah and Baghdad and 
died in 767. A merchant by profession, abu-rj anifah became the 
first and most influential jurist in Islam. His teachings he im- 
parted orally to his disciples, one of whom, abu-Yu$uf (j 798), 
has preserved for us in his Kiidb al-Kharaj*" the chief views of 
the master. Abu-H anifah did not actually introduce, though he 
emphasized strongly, the principle of analogical deduction 
leading to what we call legal fiction. He also insisted upon the 
right of "preference 1 * (tsttJxsdn)* departure from analogy on 
grounds of equity. Like his competitor Malik of al-Madlnah he 
had no idea of forming a juridical school (itnadhhai^ rite), yet 
abu-rjamfah became the founder of the earliest, largest and most 

1 Shahrcstani, p. 155. * IM. pp . x 6o*6i; lbn-Khaldun, Muqadticmak, p. 372. 

* Ftkrisi, p, 2ot; ibn-KhalhkSn, vol. m, p. 74. * (Cairo, I346.) 

* The tstthtan of the Hanafite school, the tshfUh (principle of public advantage) 
of the Malikitc school, and the r*> are often treated as synonyms of $*y& (analogy)* 


tolerant school of Islam. To his rite almost one half of the world 
of Sunnite Islam adheres. It was officially recognized in the 
territories of the defunct Ottoman empire as well as in India 
and Central Asia As a system of religio-juridical thought von 
Kremer considers it "the highest and loftiest achievement of 
which Islam was capable". 1 

The leader of the Madman school, supposedly better ac- 
quainted with the Prophet's life and frame of mind, was Malik 
ibn-Anas (ca. 715-9$ 2 ), whose a!~Muwatta* (the levelled path), 
next to the compendium of Zayd lbn-'Ali 4 (f 743), is the 
oldest surviving corpus of Moslem law. This monumental 
work, with its 1700 juridical traditions, codified the sunnah, out- 
lined the first formula of the ijma (consensus of opinion) as 
prevalent in al-Madlnah and became the canon for the Mahkite 
rite. This rite drove from the Maghrib and Andalusia the two 
minor systems of al-Awza'i (f 774) and of al-Zahiri 5 (815-83) 
and to the present day prevails throughout northern Africa, 
with the exception of Lower Egypt, and in eastern Arabia. After 
abu-rjtanTfah and Malik jundico-theological studies so developed 
as to become the most extensively cultivated branch of Arabic 

Between the liberal *Iraq and the conservative Madinah 
schools there arose one which professed to have found the golden 
mean by accepting speculation with certain reservations. This 
is the Shafi'ite school, whose founder was Muhammad ibn-Idrls 
al-Shafi*i. Born in Ghazzah (767), al-Shafi'i, who belonged to 
the Quraysh family, studied under Mahk in al-Madmah, but 
the main scenes of his activity were Baghdad and Cairo. 6 He 
died in 820 at Cairo, where his tomb at the foot of al-Muqattam 
is still the object of pilgrimage. The Shafi'i rite still dominates 
Lower Egypt, eastern Africa, Palestine, western and southern 
Arabia, the coastal regions of India and the East Indies. Its 
adherents number about 105,000,000 as against 180,000,000 
Hanafites, 50,000,000 Malikites and 5,000,000 Hanbahtes. 

1 CuUurgacAictte t \o\ i, p 497. * Cf. ibn-Kballikan, \oI. « f p. aoi. 

8 Delhi, 1302 Sec also his at Mudawzicmah al-Kuhra (Cairo, 1323), 16 vols. 

* Afcjni? cl Fiqh, cd. E. Gnffiru (Milan, 1919). 

4 Diwud ibn Khalaf aMsbaham (ibn Khalhkan, \ol 1, p 312), surnamed al 
£anin because he regarded onl> the literal {$ahir) meaning of the Koran and faidith 
as authontauve Though his teachings found a most gifted protagonist in ibn»$azro 
of Cordova (994-1064), yet they did not survive 

* Yaqut, Udahd\ \oI* vj, pp. 367 scg,; ibn-Khalhkan, vol. ii» pp. 215-16. 


The last of the four rites into which the whole Moslem com- 
munity, exclusive of the Shf ah, has divided itself is the #an- 
balite, which takes its name from Ahmad ibn-FJfanbal, a student 
of al~Shafi c i and a representative of uncompromising adherence 
to the letter of the hadith. Ibn-$ anbal's conservatism served as 
the bulwark of orthodoxy in Baghdad against the Mutazilite 
innovations. Though subjected to the inquisition (mt&na/i) and 
put in chains under al-Ma*mun, scourged and imprisoned by 
al-Mu'tasim, ibn-rjanbai stubbornly refused to recant and 
allowed no modification in the traditional form of confession. 1 
The 800,000 men and 60,000 women who are estimated to 
have attended his funeral in 855 at Baghdad 2 testify to the 
hold this stalwart champion of orthodoxy had on public im- 
agination. Posterity venerated his tomb as that of a saint and 
honoured him with the same title, imam, bestowed upon abu- 
H an if ah, Malik and al~Shafi*i. For a long time the collection 
of over 28,000 traditions, Miamad? ascribed to him, enjoyed 
special renown. Today, however, the I^anbalite rite claims no 
considerable following outside of the Wahhabis. 

In the principle of ijma, elaborated by al-Shafi*i, the Moslem 
community hit upon a most useful theological expedient which 
has enabled its members to adapt their institutions and beliefs 
to varied and novel situations in a changing world. In a com- 
munity where no church, no clergy and no central authority are 
recognised, deference to public opinion naturally assumes an 
important role. It was through this principle that the vulgate 
text of the Koran was canonized, the six canonical books of 
hadlths were approved, the miracles of the Prophet were accepted, 
lithographic reproductions of the Koran were authorized and 
the necessity of belonging to the Quraysh was dispensed with in 
favour of the Ottoman caliphs. The Shfites, it should be remem- 
bered, have their own rite and do not accept To it they 
oppose the absolute authority and judgment of the infallible 
imams, all descendants of *Ali. With the above four rites, which 
crystallized traditional dogma and everything necessary for doc- 
trinal and juridical development, the door of ijtihdd, the right 
of further interpreting the Koran and the sunnah or of forming 
a new opinion by applying analogy, was for ever closed to the 

1 Ibn-*A<&kir, TcriH, vol. ii, pp. 41 sc?. 
* Ibn*KhaHikuu, voh i» p. 2S. » 6 vols. (Cairo, 1313). 


Sunnite community; but the Shi'ites still have their mujtakids, 
learned men who are qualified to act as spokesmen for the 
sublime and hidden imam and to interpret his ideas. 

The indebtedness of the Islamic juridical system to the 
Roman-Byzantine laws, which had been for centuries naturalized 
in Syria, Palestine and Egypt, has not yet been made the object 
of the study it deserves by competent scholarship. Certain 
orientalists see Roman influence not only in particular regula- 
tions but also, and what is more important, in questions of 
principle and methodology. The Justinian Code recognized the 
method of analogical deduction and private judgment. Certain 
Byzantine regulations may have left their impress upon the 
Islamic statutes of purchase, sale and other commercial rela- 
tionships; others relating to guardianship and will, letting and 
hiring may have passed through Judaic, rabbinical or talmudic, 
channels. But it is surprising that the Roman influence is not 
better marked in the system of the Syrian al-Awza*i (f 774), 
who laboured in Beirut, 1 as late as the sixth century still the 
seat of a flourishing school of Roman law, and came very near 
establishing a fifth rite. 
Ethics The prescriptions of the canon law (sharfah) discussed above 
regulate for the Moslem his entire life in its religious, political 
and social aspects. They govern his marital and civic relations 
as well as his relations with non-Moslems. Accordingly ethical 
conduct derives its sanctions and inhibitions from the sacred 
law. All man's acts are classified under five legal categories: 
(l) what is considered absolute duty (fard), embracing actions 
the commission of which is rewarded and the omission punished 
by law; (2) commendable or meritorious actions (musta/tabb), the 
performance of which is rewarded but the omission not punished; 

(3) permissible actions (jats, mubaJt), which arelegally indifferent; 

(4) reprehensible actions (makriih), which are disapproved but 
not punishable; (5) forbidden actions Qtardm), the doing of which 
calls for punishment. 

Ethical works based on the Koran and tradition, though 
numerous, do not exhaust all the material in Arabic literature 
dealing with morals (akhlaq)? There are at least three other 
types. Several works deal with good morals and refinement of 
spirit and deportment (adab). These are based mainly on Indo- 

1 Ibn Khalhkan, vol. i, p. 493 1 See tfajjt Khalfah, vol. i, pp. 200-205. 


Persian anecdotes, proverbs and wise sayings. Al-Durrah al- 
Yatimak 1 by ibn-al-MuqaftV (executed ^.757), which eulogizes 
temperance, courage, liberality and proficiency in discourse and 
business, may be taken as a specimen of this type. A similarly 
popular philosophy of morality is found in the fables and 
proverbs of Luqman, the /Esop of the Arabs. An ethical treatise 
by the celebrated constitutional theorist of Baghdad, al-Mawardi 
(f 1058),* rich in wise sayings of the Prophet and the Com- 
panions, is still popular as a text-book in Egyptian and Syrian 
schools* Another type of work is philosophical, ultimately going 
back to Aristotle through Neo-Piatonic and Neo- Pythagorean 
sources. These Greek works, headed by Aristotle's Nichomachean 
Ethics translated as Kit&b al-Akklaq by FJunayn or his son 
Ishaq,* laid the foundation of Arabic moral philosophy ('ilm 
al-akhlaq), whose aim, like that of Aristotle and Plato, was to 
facilitate the attainment of earthly felicity. Of this school the 
most notable representative was the historian Miskawayh, whose 
Takdhib al-Akhlaq* is the best ethical work of the strictly 
philosophical or Neo-Platonic type composed by a Moslem. 
We also have in the epistles of the Brethren of Sincerity, of which 
the ninth is devoted to akhlaq> a characteristic deposit of Greek 
ethics pervaded by astrological and metaphysico-psychological 
speculation. The Brethren show special enthusiasm for Christ 
and Socrates as examples of the moral man, though to the 
Sunnites Muhammad and to the Shi'ites *Ali are the perfect 
men. The third type of ethics may be styled the mystico- 
psychological. Its exponents were al-Ghazzali and various Sufi 
authors whom we shall consider in a forthcoming chapter. In all 
these Moslem moral philosophies certain virtues such as resigna- 
tion, contentment and endurance are admired; vices are treated 
as maladies of the soul with the moral philosopher as the 
physician; and the classification is founded on the analysis of the 
faculties of the soul, each faculty having its own virtue and its 
own vice. 

In the early centuries of the \Abbasid power an interesting 
movement developed among the subjected races, particularly 
the Persians, whose object it was to combat the feeling of 

, * EiLSbaUb Arisian (Cairo). 

9 Adeh al-Dunyo w-d~X>ift t 16th cd. (Cairo, 1925). 

* Cf. Fikttst, p. 352, * Several Cairo editions, none of them critical. 



superiority which those Moslems of Arabian descent, real or 
claimed, had long manifested. The movement took its name 
Shu'ubiyah (belonging to the peoples, non-Arabs) from a koranic 
verse (49 : 1 3) the purport of which was to inculcate the brother- 
hood and equality of all Moslems. Whilst among the Kharijites 
and the Shi'ites it took dynastic and political aspects, and among 
some Persians it took religious aspects involving heresy and 
zindiqism % yet the form which al-5hu*ubTyah assumed in general 
was that of literary controversy. It derided the Arab pretensionr 
to intellectual superiority and claimed for non-Arabs superiority 
in poetry and literature- The n on- Arab cause was championed 
by such leaders as al-Blruni and PJamzah al-Isfahani, whilst the 
Arab side was represented by several of Arabian as well as others 
of Persian extraction, including al-Jahiz, 1 ibn-Durayd, 2 ibn- 
Qutaybah and al-Baladhuri. It was in"- connection with such 
controversial questions that some of the earliest original pieces 
of Arabic literature were composed. 

What we call "Arabic literature" was no more Arabian than 
the Latin literature of the Middle Ages was Italian. Its producers 
were men of the most varied ethnic origins 3 and in its totality it 
represents the enduring monument of a civilization rather than 
of a people. Even such disciplines as philology, linguistics, lexi- 
cography and grammar, which were primarily Arabian in origin 
and spirit and in which the Arabs made their chief original 
contribution, recruited some of their most distinguished scholars 
from the non-Arab stock. Al-Jawhari (f ca. 1008), whose lexicon, 4 
arranged in the alphabetical order of the final radical letters 
of the words, served as a model for later lexicographers, was a 
Turk from Farab. 6 His contemporary ibn-Jinni tf 1002), who 
adorned the IJamdanid court at Aleppo and whose chief merit 
was a philosophical treatment of philology, was the son of a 
Greek slave. 6 

Arabic literature in the narrow sense of adab (belles-lettres) 
began with al-Jahiz (f 868-9), tne sheikh of the Basrah littera- 
teurs, and reached its culmination in the fourth and fifth 

1 Bcyan, vol. iii F pp. 9 scq. 

1 A lexicographer, died at Baghdad, 933. He wrote against" the Shu'ublyah Xitci 
al'Iskttqdq^ ed. Wuslenfeld (Gottmgcn, 1854). 

8 In his Muqaddamahy pp, 477-9, ibn-Khaldtm has a chapter headed "Most of the 
karncd men in Islam vcrc non- Arabians 

* Siftdjt t a vols. (Buluq, 1292). * Yaqut, Udala, vol. ii, p. 266. 

• J bid. vol. v, p. 15. 


Moslem centuries in the works of BadI* al~Zaman al-Hamadhani 
(969-1008), al-Tha'alibi 1 of Naysabur (961-1038) and al-rjariri 
(1054-1122). One characteristic feature of prose-writing in this 
period was the tendency, in response to Persian influence, to be 
affected and ornate. The terse, incisive and simple expression of 
early days had gone for ever. It was supplanted by polished and 
elegant style, rich in elaborate similes and replete with rhymes. 
The whole period was marked by a predominance of humanistic 
over scientific studies. Intellectually it was a period of decline. 
It supported a literary proletariat, many of whose members, 
with no independent means of livelihood, roamed from place to 
place ready to give battle over linguistic issues and grammatical 
technicalities or to measure poetical swords over trivial matters 
with a view to winning favours from wealthy patrons. This 
period also saw the rise of a new form of literary expression, the 

Badi* ai-Zaman (wonder of the age) al-Hamadhani is credited 
with the creation of the maqdmah (assembly), a kind of dramatic 
anecdote in the telling of which the author subordinates sub- 
stance to form and does his utmost to display his poetical 
ability, learning and eloquence. In reahty such a form of 
composition as the maqdmah could not have been the creation 
of any one man; it was a natural development of rhymed prose 
and flowery diction as represented by ibn-Durayd and earlier 
stylists. Al-Hamadhani's work* served as a model for al-rlanri 
of ai-Basrah, 3 whose Maqamdt* for more than seven centuries 
were esteemed as the chief treasure, next to the Koran, of the 
literary Arabic tongue. In these maqdmdt of al-rjarlri and other 
writers there is much more than the elegant form and rhetorical 
anecdote which most readers consider the only significant 
feature. The anecdote itself is often used as a subtle and indirect 
way of criticizing the existing social order and drawing a whole- 
some moral. Since the days of al-Hamadhani and al-rlanri the 
maqdmah has become the most perfect form of literary and 
dramatic presentation in Arabic, a language which has never 

1 The name means futner; ibn*KhalHkan, vol. i, p. 522. His best-known work is 
Yatimai <xhDahr> 4 vols. (D<*m*iscus> 1302), an anthology of .contemporary poets. 
" Afag&mat, e<L Muhammad 'Abduh (Beirut, 1S89). 
* 3b»~Kh«i1)j1tan, vol. i t p< 6S. 

V Ef <ie Sary, 2 vols. (Paris, 1847-53); tr. into English by Thomas Chenery and 
F^Stemgass, * vols, {London, 


produced real drama. Early Spanish and Italian tales of the 
realistic or picaresque type display clear affinities with the Arabic 

Before the maqamah was developed Arabic literature saw the 
rise of its greatest literary historian, abu-al-Faraj al-Isbahani, or 
al-Isfahani (ca. 897-967), a lineal descendant of Marwan, the 
last Umayyad caliph. Abu-al-Faraj flourished in Aleppo, where 
he produced his Kitab al-Aghani 1 (book of songs), a veritable 
treasury of poetry and literature and an indispensable source for 
the study of Moslem civilization. In his Muqaddamah 5 ibn- 
Khaldun rightly calls it "the register of the Arabs" and "the 
final resource of the student of belles-lettres". His Alcppine 
patron Sayf-al-Dawlah al-riamdani bestowed on the author a 
thousand gold pieces as a reward for this work, 3 and the Anda- 
lusian al-rjakam II sent him a like sum. A Buwayhid vizir, 
al-Sahib ibn-*Abbad (f 995), who is said to have been wont to 
take with him on his journeys thirty camel-loads of books, 
dispensed with them all on receiving a copy of al-Aghani> which 
he thereafter carried about alone. 4 
Thw In this period, shortly before the middle of the tenth century, 

the first draft of what later became Alf Laylah wa-Layiah* (a 
thousand and one nights) was made in al-'Iraq. The basis of 
this draft, prepared by al-Jahshiyari 6 (f 942), was an old Persian 
work, Hazdr Afsana (thousand tales), containing several stories of 
Indian origin. Al-Jahshiyari added other tales from local story- 
tellers. 7 The Afsana provided the general plot and framework as 
well as the nomenclature for the leading heroes and heroines, 
including Shahrazad. As time went on additions were made 
from numberless sources: Indian, Greek, Hebrew, Egyptian and 
the like. Oriental folk-tales of every description were absorbed 
in the course of centuries. The court of Harun al-Rashld provided 
a large quota of humorous anecdotes and love romances. The 
final form was not taken by the Nights until the later Mamluk 
period in Egypt. Its heterogeneous character has inspired the 

1 20 vols. (BQlaq, 1 285); Brunnow edited vol. 21 (Le>den, jSSS) and Guidi issued 
index (Lejden, 1900). 

* P. 487. * Yaqut, vol. v, p. 150, ibn-Khallikan, vol. ii, p. XX. 

* Ibn-Khalhkan, vol. ii, p. II, cf. vol i, p. 133. 

* Bulaq editions A. H. 1251 {1835) and 1279 fixed the vulgate Arabic text. 

8 Better known for his Kttdb al-Wutara wal-Kuttdb, ed. Hans v. Mzik (Leipzig, 

* Ft Art's/, p 304. Cf. Mas'Gdt, vol. iv, p. 90. 


facetious words of a modern critic who has described the Arabian 
Nights as Persian tales told after the manner of Buddha by 
Queen Esther 1 to "Haroun Alraschid" in Cairo during the 
fourteenth century of the Christian era. First translated into 
French by Galland, 3 the Ntgkts have worked their way into all 
the principal languages of modern Europe and Asia and have 
taken their place as the most popular piece of Arabic literature in 
the West, vastly more popular than m the Moslem East itself. In 
English the first important translation, incomplete but accurate, 
is that of Edward William Lane- 3 It has a valuable and full com- 
mentary and has gone through several editions. John Payne's 
translation, 4 the best in English, is complete but has no com* 
mentary. In his rendition Sir Richard F, Burton 5 follows Payne's 
except in the poetical part and endeavours to improve on it by 
attempting to reproduce the Oriental flavour of the original 

The pre-Islamic poetry of the heroic age of the jahiliyah Po< 
provided models for the Umayyad bards, whose imitations of 
the antique odes were treated as classical by the 'Abbasid poets. 
The pietistic spirit fostered by the new regime of the banu-al- 
'Abbas, the foreign cultural and religious influences streaming 
mainly from Persia, and the patronage of the cahphs under 
whom the poets flourished and whom they were expected to laud 
and glorify, tended to produce deviation from the old trodden 
paths of classicism and develop new forms of poetical expression. 
Nevertheless poesy proved the most conservative of all Arab arts. 
Throughout the ages it never ceased to breathe the spirit of the 
desert. Even modern Arabic versifiers of Cairo, Damascus and 
Baghdad feel no incongruity in introducing their odes by 
apostrophizing the deserted encampments {aflat) of the beloved, 
whose eyes they still liken to those of wild cows (wtaha). Other 
than poetry, law— particularly in its marital ordinances— is 
perhaps the only field in which the old desert elements have 
succeeded m perpetuating themselves. 

The earliest exponent of the new style in poetry was the blind 
Persian Bashshar ibn-Burd> who was put to death in 783 under 
al-Mahdi, according to some for satirizing his vizir but more 

1 Cf Fthrut, p, 304, 1, 16, with Tabari, vol. 1, p. 688, \l 1, 12-13, p. 689, 1. 1, 

* 12 vols (Pans, 1704-17) 

5 3 vols. (London, 1839-41). Ed. with illustrations by L. S. Poole, 3 .vols (London, 
1859) Rev by L» S. Poole, 3 \ols (London, 1SS3) Several later reprints 

* 9 \oh. (London, 1SS2-4) * 16 vols (London and "Benares", 1885-$). 


probably on account of his zindiqi$m t Zoroastrian or Manichaean 
secret views, Bashshar, who once thanked Allah for having made 
him blind "so that I need not see that which I hate", 1 was a rebel 
against the archaic formulas of ancient poetry. 2 Another early 
representative of the new school was the half-Persian abu- 
Nuwas 3 (f ca, 810), the boon companion of Harun and al-Amm 
and the poet in whose songs love and wine found their best 
expression. The name of abu-Nuwas has lived to the present day 
in the Arabic world as a synonym for clown; in reality he has 
few rivals in amorous sentiment, erotic expression and elegant 
diction. He is the lyric and bacchic poet par excellence of the 
Moslem world. The many songs on the beauty of boys attributed 
to this dissolute favourite of the f Abbasid court, as well as his 
poems in praise of wine {khamriydt\ which have not ceased to 
enchant those who read and drink, throw interesting light upon 
contemporaneous aristocratic life.* The ghazal of abu-Nuwas, 
short poems of love ranging from five to fifteen verses, follow the 
model of Persian bards, who developed this verse form long before 
the Arabs. 

Just as the witty and licentious abu-Nuwas represented the 
lighter side of court life, so did his ascetic contemporary abu-al- 
*Atahiyah 5 (748-^. 828), a potter by profession, give expression 
to pessimistic meditations on mortality which the common man 
of religious mentality entertained. The soul of this scion of the 
Bedouin tribe of 'Anazah rebelled against the frivolous high life 
of Baghdad, where he lived, and although Harun assigned to him 
a yearly stipend of 50,000 dirhams, he adopted the garb of a 
dervish and produced those ascetic and religious poems (su/tdl- 
ydt) which entitle him to the position of father of Arabic sacred 
poetry. 6 

The provinces, particularly Syria, reared during the 'Abbasid 
period a number of first-class poets, among whom the most 
renowned were abu-Tammam (f ca. 845) and abu-al- f AIa\ 

1 Aghdm, vol. in, p. 22. 

* Consult the collection edited by Afcmad H. al-Qimi as JBashshar ibn*Burd; 
SHCruhu **a-Akhbaruku (Cairo, 1925); Aghani t vol. m, pp 1973, vol. vi, pp. 47*53; 
ibn-Khallikan, -vol. i, p. 157; ibn-Qutaybah, Sh?r % pp 476-9. 

* Al-Hasan ibn-Hani*; ibn-Khallikan, vol, f, p. 240. 

* Consult bis l>Iu>ar: t cd. Mahmud Wasif (Cairo, 1898); Aghcni y vol. xviii, pp. 2-8; 
ibn-Qutaybah, Sfo~r t pp. 501*25. 

8 Isma'fl ibn-al-Qusim. On his life sec Agham, vol. ui, pp 126-83; Mas'fldi, vol. 
vi , pp. 240-50, 333*40, vol. vii, pp. Si-7; ibn-Khalbkon, \ol i, pp. 125-30. 
* Consult his Dfrv&n (Beirut, 1SS7) 

t i 

Abu-Tammam's father, who kept a wine shop in Damascus, was 
a Christian by the name of Thadus (Thaddaios), which the son 
changed to Avvs when he embraced Islam.* Abu-Tammam was 
a court poet in Baghdad. His title to fame rests as much on his 
Dttvdts 2 as on his compilation of Diwan al-ffamasah? poems 
celebrating valour in battle. This Dvwatt embraces gems of 
Arabic poetry. The collection of ffamasah* poems of the same 
description by the other court poet, al~Buhturi (820-97), * s * n- 
ferior to that of abu-Tammam, after which it was modelled. 

The patronage accorded by the 'Abbasid caliphs, vizirs and 
governors to poets, whom they employed as encomiasts, not only 
made the panegyric {madt(i) an especially favourite form of 
poetical composition but led poets to prostitute their art, and 
resulted m that false glitter and empty bombast often said to be 
characteristic of Arabic poetry, 'Abbasid poetry, not unlike 
Arabic poetry of other periods, was moreover mainly subjective 
and provincial in character, full of local colour but unable to 
soar above rime and place to gam a position among the timeless 
and landless offspring of the Muses. 

1 Sec Agh&nit vol xv, pp 99 10S, Mas*udi, vol vji, pp 147-67, ibn-KhaJhkiui, 
vol. u pp 214 *S x Ed Shahin 'Ajayah, {Beirut, 1SS9) 

* Ed as Ash* dr al-fiamdsek by Freytag (Bonn* 182$), supplemented by a conv 
mcntar> in z vols. (Bonn, 1847-51) 

* Photographic reproduction with indexes by Geyer and MargoUouth (Leyden, 

From a3 Birum, ai-Jth$r at Baqi$ak % MS dated A H. 707 (1307-8), in the Library 
of the Unncrsit) of Edinburgh 


THE child's education began at home. As soon as he could 
speak it was the father's duty to teach him "the word" {aU 
kalimahy. La ildha illa-l-Lah (no god whatsoever but Allah) * 
When six years old the child was held responsible for the ritual 
prayer. It was then that his formal education began. 1 

The elementary school (/tut tab) was an adjunct of the mosque, 
if not the mosque itself. Its curriculum centred upon the Koran 
as a reading text-book. With reading went writing. On visiting 
Damascus in 1 1 84 ibn-Jubayr 2 noticed that the writing exer- 
cises by the pupils were not from the Koran but from secular 
poetry, for the act of erasing the word of Allah might discredit 
it. Together with reading and penmanship the students were 
taught Arabic grammar, stories about the prophets — particu- 
larly hadlths relating to Muhammad — the elementary principles 
of arithmetic, and poems, but not of erotic character. Through- 
out the whole curriculum memory work was especially empha- 
sized. Deserving pupils in the elementary schools of Baghdad 
were often rewarded by being paraded through the streets on 
camels whilst almonds were thrown at them. In one instance the 
shower had tragic results by destroying the eye of a young 
scholar. 8 Similar scenes enacted in honour of young pupils who 
have memorized the Koran are not infrequent today in Moslem 
lands. In certain cases the scholars were granted a whole or 
partial holiday whenever one of them had finally mastered a 
section of the Koran. 

Girls were welcome to all the religious instruction in the lower 
grades of which their minds were capable, but there was no 
special desire to guide them further along the flowery and thorny 
path of knowledge. For after all was not the centre of a woman's 
sphere the spindle? 4 The children of the wealthy had private 

1 Cf. GhazzSh, /&>«\ vol. i, p. 83. * P. 272. 

' Agkdm x \ol. xvui, p. xoi.* * Cf. Mubarrad, p. 150, 1. 3. 


* 'cH.XXvni r ' , ~ EDUCATION V, ^ „- 

tutors (sing, mii'additiy who instructed them in religion, polite 
literature and the art of versification. Very commonly these 
tutors were of foreign extraction. The ideals of aristocratic 
education may be ascertained from the instructions given by- 
al-Rashid to the tutor of his son al-Amln : 

Be not strict to the extent of stifling his faculties or lenient to the 
point of making him enjoy idleness and accustom himself thereto. 
Straighten him as much as thou canst through kindness and gentleness, 
but fail not to resort to force and severity should he not respond. 1 

The rod was considered a necessary part of a teacher's equipment 
and, as is evident from the above, had the caliph's approval for 
use on his children* In his chapter on the parental management 
of children in Risalat al-Siyasah? ibn-Slna speaks of "seeking 
the aid of the hand" as a valuable auxiliary of the educator's art. 

The teacher in the elementary school, called tntfattim t some- 
times faqth on account of his theological training, came to 
occupy a rather low status socially. "Seek no advice from 
teachers, shepherds and those who sit much among women", 3 
admonished a favourite adage* A judge under al-Ma'mun went 
so far as to refuse to admit teachers' testimonies as satisfactory 
evidence in court. A whole body of anecdotes in Arabic literature 
developed round the teacher as a dunce. "More foolish than a 
teacher of an elementary school" 4 acquired proverbial usage. 
But the higher grade of teachers were on the whole highly 
respected. They evidently were organized into a sort of a guild, 
and the master would grant a recognized certificate (ijdzah) to 
those students who satisfactorily passed the prescribed course of 
study under him. In his treatise on pedagogy al-Zarnuji, 5 who 
wrote in 1203, devotes a section to the high regard in which a 
student should hold the profession of teaching, quoting the 
adage^attributed to 'Alt; "I am the slave of him who hath taught 
me even one letter", Al-Zamuji's is the best known of some two 
score Arabic treatises on education, most of which have survived 
in manuscript Yorm. 6 

1 Ma$*adi, toLti, pp. 321-2; ibn-Khaldun, Muqaddamah^ pp. 475-6. 

* E<L LuwTs MaJlQf \t\ al-Mashriq^ vol. ix (1906), p, 1074. 

, * Ta*iim cl'Mufa'dtim T«rtq al~Ta* ctlum, cd. C. Caspar! (Leipzig, 1838), pp. 
14.XQ. See also Ghaszati, voU i, pp. S«n. 

* For fist see Khalit A. Totah, The Contribution of the Arabs to Education 
(NcwTork, 1926). pp, 67-76. ; 



Institutions The first prominent institution for higher learning in Islam 
£d^t£n was the Bayt al-Ihkmah (the house of wisdom) founded by 
al-Ma*mun (830) in hie capital. Besides serving as a translation 
bureau this institute functioned as an academy and public 
library and had an observatory connected with it. The observa- 
tories, which sprang up at this time, it should be remembered, 
were also schools for teaching astronomy, just as the hospitals, 
which also made their first appearance at this period, served as 
centres for medical studies. But the first real academy in Islam 1 
which made provision for the physical needs of its students and 
became a model for later institutions of higher learning was the 
Nizamlyah, founded in 1065-7 by the enlightened Nizam-al- 
Mulk, the Persian vizir of the Saljuq Sultans Alp Arslan and 
Malikshah and the patron of 'Umar al-Khayyam. The Saljuqs, 
like the Buwayhids and other non-Arab sultans who usurped 
the sovereign power in Islam, vied with each other in patronizing 
the arts and higher education, evidently as a means of ingratiat- 
ing themselves with the populace. The Nizamlyah was conse- 
crated as a theological seminary {inadrasali), particularly for the 
study of the Shan'i rite and the orthodox Ash f ari system In it the 
Koran and old poetry formed the backbone of the study of the 
humanities ('i/m al-adafr), precisely as the classics did later in 
the European universities. The students boarded in this academy 
and many of them held endowed scholarships. It is claimed that 
certain details of its organization appear to have been copied by 
the early universities of Europe. 2 That the students cherished 
a measure of esprtt de corps is evidenced by the rough treat- 
ment accorded a representative of the court who came to seal the 
door of a room formerly occupied by a scholar who died in 1187 
leaving no heirs. 3 

The Nizamlyah was a theological institution recognized by 
the state. Ibn-al-AthTr 4 cites the incident of a lecturer (mudarris) 
who received his appointment but could not perform his duty 
pending confirmation from the caliph. Evidently one lecturer 
was appointed at a time. 5 The lecturer had under him t;vo or 
more ripititeurs (sing, mu'id, repeater) 6 whose duty consisted 
in reading over the lecture after class and explaining it to 

1 Consult SuyGp, Husn y vol. u, pp. I $6*7. Cf Qazwmi, Atkar> p. 276. 

* Reuben Lev/, A Baghdad Chronicle (Cambridge, 1929), p 193. 

* Ibn al-Athir, vol xi, p. 115. 4 Vol. xi, p. 100 

4 Ibn-al Athlr, \ol x, p. 123 * See ibn-Khalhkan, vol. iu, p. 43a 

cx.xxmt 1 EDUCATION ' ~4*t 

the less-gifted students* Ibn-Jubayr 1 once attended a lecture 
delivered after the mid-afternoon prayers by the ranking pro- 
fessor. The lecturer stood on a platform while the students sat 
on stools and plied him with written and oral questions till 
evening prayer. It was in this Nizamiyah that ai-Ghazzali 
lectured for four years (1091-5). 3 In the chapter on learning with 
which he introduced his Ijtya* al-Ghazzali combated the idea 
that the imparting of knowledge was the object of education and 
emphasized the necessity of stimulating the moral consciousness 
of the student, thus becoming the first author in Islam to bring 
the problem of education into organic relation with a profound 
ethical system- Among the later eminent teachers of the Niza- 
mlyah was Baha'-al-Dln, Salah-al-Dln's (SaladhVs) biographer, 
who tells us in his reminiscences, as reported in ibn-Khallikan, 4 
that to sharpen their memories a group of students once drank 
such a heavy dose of an infusion of anacardia* kernels that one 
of them lost his wits entirely and came naked to the class. When 
amidst the laughter of the class he was asked for an explana- 
tion, he gravely replied that he and his companions had tried 
the anacardia infusion, which made them all insane with the 
exception of himself, who had happily kept his senses. 

Al-Nizamiyah survived the catastrophe that befell the capital 
at its capture by llulagu in 1 258, as it survived the later invasions 
by the Tartars, and was finally merged with its younger sister, 
al-Mustansinyah, about two years after Timur Lang (Tamerlane) 
captured Baghdad in 1393. Al-Mustansinyah derived its name 
from the next-to-iast caliph, al-Mustansir * who built it in 1234 
as a seminary for the four orthodox rites. The building had a clock 
(doubtless of the clepsydra type) at the entrance, was equipped 
with baths and kitchens and included a hospital and a library. 
Ibn-Battutah, 7 who visited Baghdad in 1327, gives us a detailed 
description of the building. Renovated as a school in 1961 this 
structure and nl-Qasr (palace) al-Abbdsi, now a museum, are 
the only ones surviving from e Abbasid days. 
1 Pp. 219-20. 

■ Ihn^KhnUik^,, p. 246; a/.JI/jw^M (Cairo, 1329), pp. 59-30. 

Vol. I, pp. 43-9; Ayyuka elAYalad, cd. and trJ Haimncr-PurgstaH (Vienna, 
1838}; tr. (Eng.) G. H. Schcrcr (Bdrftt, 1933). * Vol. ui, pp. 435 stq. 

* Ar» bcladkur t from Pcrs. bcUdtir. The celebrated historian sl-Bsladhuri is said 
to feave died as a result of drinking the juice of the anacardia (cashew nut). Hence 
lus surname. 

• Abu«aI*Bda% vol iii, p. 179. * VoL ii, pp. 108*9. 



Besides the Nizarmyah of Baghdad the Saljuq vizir is credited 
with establishing several other seminaries in Naysabur and other 
towns of the empire. Prior to Salah-al-Dln he was the greatest 
patron of higher education in Islam The NizamTyah type of 
madrasah spread over Khurasan, al-'Iraq and Syria. Founding 
a madrasah was always considered a meritorious act in Islam 
This explains the large number of such institutions reported 
by travellers. Ibn-Jubayr 1 counted in Baghdad about thirty 
schools; in Damascus, which then enjoyed its golden age under 
Salah-al-Dln, about twenty; in al-Mawsil, six or more; and in 
rjims only one. 

In all these higher institutions of theology the science of 
tradition lay at the basis of the curriculum, and memory work 
was especially stressed. In those days of no diaries and no 
memoranda the retentive faculties must have been developed to 
phenomenal limits, if we are to believe the sources. Al-Ghazzali 
earned his title hujjat al-Islam (the authority of Islam) by 
memorizing 300,000 traditions Ahmad ibn-rlanbal, it is said, 
knew by heart i,ooo,ooo. 2 Al-Bukhari was tested by one hundred 
traditions in which the chain of authorities (tsndd) of the one 
was affixed to the text {main) of the other — all of which he 
straightened out nicely from memory. 3 Poets vied with tradition- 
ists in memory work Having read a copy of a book loaned him 
by a bookseller, al-Mutanabbi' saw no more reason for buying 
the book, for its contents were already stored in his mmd 
Anecdotes of a similar nature are told to prove the prodigious 
memories of abu-Tammam and al-Ma'arri. 

Adult education was nowhere carried on in a systematic way, 
but the mosques in almost ail Moslem towns served as important 
educational centres When a visitor came to a new city he could 
make his way to the congregational mosque confident that he 
could attend lectures on hadith. This is what al-Maqdisi* tells 
us he did on visiting distant al-Sus. This travelling geographer 
of the tenth century found in his native Palestine and in Syria, 
Egypt and Faris many circles (sing, halqali) or assemblies (sing. 
majlis) centring upon faqths t Koran readers and litterateurs in 
the mosques. 6 The Imam al-Shafi'i presided at such a halqah 

1 P 229, 1 10, p 283, 1 8, p 236, 11. t-2, p. 258, 1 20. 

* Ibn Klnlhknn, \ol t, p 28 * Ibn Khallikan, \ol it, pp 2303 1 

P. 415 * Maqdist, pp 1S2, 179, 1. 20, pp 205, 439, 1, 11. 

CB.xxym ' *- - ^ EDTICXTION „ - < V , ^ d > 4x3 

at the Mosque of f Amr at al-Fustat, where he* taught various 
subjects every morning till his death in'820. 1 Ibn-IJawqal 3 
mentions similar assemblies in Sijistan- Not only religious but 
linguistic and poetical subjects were treated in these assemblies. 5 
Every Moslem had free admission to such lectures in the mosques,' 
which remained until the eleventh century the extension school 
of Islam. 

These mosque circles bring to mind another type of coterie, 
chiefly literary, which met in the homes of the aristocracy and 
cultured society under the name of majalis al-adabf literary 
salons. These gatherings begin to appear early under the *Ab- 
basids. In the presence of several early caliphs poetical contests, 
religious debates and literary conferences were often held. We 
owe a few surviving works to such debates. 5 

Mosques also functioned as repositories for books. Through \ 
gifts and bequests mosque libraries became especially rich in 
religious literature. Among others the historian al-Khatib al- 
Baghdadi (1002-71) willed his books "as a waqf [mortmain] for 
the Moslems", but they were housed in the home of a friend of 
his. 6 Other libraries established by dignitaries or men of wealth 
as semi-public institutions housed collections bearing on logic, 
philosophy, astronomy and other sciences, 7 Scholars and men of 
standing had no difficulty in finding access even to private collec- 
tions. Al-Mawsil had before the middle of the tenth century a 
library, built by one of its citizens, where students were even 
supplied with free paper. 8 The library (kkizaiiat al-kutttb) 
founded in ShTraz by the Buwayhid *Adud-al-Dawlah (977-82) 
had its books arranged in cases and listed in catalogues and was 
administered by a regular staff. 9 In the same century al-Basrah 
hada library whose founder granted stipends for scholars working 
in it. 10 In al-Rayy there flourished at the same time a "home of 
books" with over four hundred camel-loads of manuscripts listed 
in a ten-volume catalogue. 11 Libraries were used as meeting* 
places for scientific discussion and debate. Yaqut spent three 
years collecting material for his geographical dictionary from the 

1 Yaqut, UJcba\ vol. vi, p. 3S3; Suyu$ t tfusn, vol* i, p. 136. * P. 31}. 

* Yaqut, vol. £t, p. 135, iL 14-16, vol. vi, p. 432, II. 14-16. 

* Aghant, vol xviii, p, iou * See above, p. 354. 

* Yaqut, vol. i, p. 252, vol. iv, p. 287. 

T l?or an illustration see t'Hd. vol. v, p. 467. 

Y?^ vo1 * P« * 20 > * M»q<*w». P< 449. See also Yaqut, vol. v, p. 446. 
" MaqtHsi, p. 413. « Yaqut, vol. ii, p. 315. 


libraries of Marw and Khwarizm, whence he fled in 1220 at the 
approach of the Mongol hordes of ChingTz Khan, who com- 
mitted all these libraries to the flames. 

Bootehops The bookshop as a commercial and educational agency also 
makes its appearance early under the 'Abbasids. Al-Ya'qubi 1 
asserts that in his time (891) the capital boasted over a hundred 
book-dealers congregated in one street. Many of these shops, like 
their modern successors in Cairo and Damascus, were but small 
booths by the mosques, but some were undoubtedly large enough 
to act as centres for connoisseurs and bibliophiles. The book- 
sellers themselves were often caliigraphcrs, copyists and literati 
who used their shops not only as stores and ateliers but as centres 
for literary discussion. They occupied a not inconspicuous place 
in society. Yaqut started on his career as a book-dealer's clerk. 
Al-Nadim (f 995), also called al-Warraq (stationer), was evi- 
dently himself a librarian or book-dealer to whose catalogue we 
possibly owe that scholarly and remarkable work al-Fikrist. In 
this work 5 we read of an 'Iraqi bibliophile whose large trunk 
housed treasures of manuscripts which included parchments, 
Egyptian papyri, Chinese paper and leather scrolls, each bear- 
ing the name of the scribe attested by the notes of from five 
to six generations of learned men. 

Paper The common wiring-material was parchment or papyrus 
down to the beginning of the third Moslem century. Certain 
official documents written on parchment and looted in the civil 
war between al-Amin and aI-Ma*rnun were later washed clean 
and sold again. 3 After the beginning of the third century some 
Chinese paper was imported into al-*Iraq, but soon the paper 
industry became indigenous. It was first into Samarquand, as we 
have already pointed out, that certain Chinese prisoners intro- 
duced in 751 the art of manufacturing paper from flax, hnen or 
hemp rags. 4 The ancient Arabic word for paper, kdghad, is pro- 
bably of Chinese origin through Persian. From Samarquand the 
industry soon passed to al- r Iraq. At the instance of the Barmakid 
al-Fadl ibn-Yahya, who had been governor of Khurasan in 794, 
the first paper-mill was established in Baghdad. 5 His brother 
Ja'far, Harun*s vizir, had parchment replaced by paper in the 

1 P. 245- * P. 40 5 Ftknst % p. ar. 

4 W. Barthold, Turkestan dentm to the Mangel Invasion, 2nd ed {Oxford, 1928), 
pp. 236-7. Cf. Fikrtst, p. 21. 
* Ibn-Khaldun, Muqaddamah % p. 352 

' ch, xxvai * EDUCATION 4*5 

1 government offices. 1 Other Moslem towns erected mills on the 
plan of those in Samarqand. A native factory arose in Tihamah 
for the manufacture of paper from vegetable fibre. 2 At the time 
of al-Maqdisi 3 the Samarqand product was still considered the 
finest. But in the following century, the eleventh, even better 
paper was manufactured in such Syrian towns as Tripoli. 4 From 
Western Asia the industry made its way at the end of the ninth 
century into the Delta of Egypt, where several towns had been 
for a long time exporting to the Greek-speaking lands papyrus 
for writing-material under the name qarafis? By the end of the 
tenth century paper had succeeded in entirely displacing papyrus 
and parchment throughout the Moslem world. 

That there was an elite of highly educated men under the first 
'Abbasids is fully recognized, but how high the general level of 
culture was among the masses is not so easy to determine. A story 
about a starving scholar of Baghdad who hesitated to sell his 
books even when his daughter was taken ill has been preserved 
in Yaqut. 6 The answers submitted by the educated slave girl 
Tawaddud to the questions of the savants as reported in The 
T/iousa?id and One Nights (nos. 438-61) may be taken as an 
index of the degree of knowledge attained by the cultured person 
after Harun and down to the twelfth century. According to 
Tawaddud intellect is of two kinds: one innate and the other 
acquired. Its seat is the heart, where God deposits it and whence 
it ascends to the brain. Man has three hundred and sixty veins, 
two hundred and forty bones and five senses. He is compounded 
of four elements: water, earth, fire and air. The stomach lies in 
front of the heart, to which the lungs are ventilators. The liver is 
the seat of compassion; the spleen, of laughter; and the two 
kidneys, of cunning. The head has five faculties: sensation, im- 
agination, will, fancy and retention. The stomach is the home of 
all disease, and diet is the source of all healing. The planets are 
seven: the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and 
Saturn. 7 

1 Maqria, Kkifrt, c<L Wiet, vol. ii, p t 34. Cf. Qalqashandi, vol, 11, pp, 475-6. 

* See Fikrjf, p. 40, 1. 23. * P, 326 

* Nasir*i-K!msraw, Sefer AftneA, ed. and tr* Charles Schefer (Pans, iSSx), text 
p. 12, tr. p« 41. 

* Sing, q irf&f, from Gu ckertcs. See Ya'qubi, p. 338, 11* 8, 13; Qalqashandi, vol. n, 
p. 474, See above, p. 34?* * Vol. i, pp. 3S-9. 

7 Hie \ery same planets of the Ptolemaic system. The last fhc ^erc those knov,n 
to ibt Assyrians and Babylonians; Jastrow, Ctmlisatwn of Bat% /<w« t p ?6j . 

From 7". ft Arnold and A.GrthmaKn. "Tht Islamic £e*k, ' by femisrten fifth* Ptfarus Priit^Poru 

(Original in Kunsthistonsches Museum, Vienna) 


In his art as in his poetry the Arab, a Semite, revealed himself 
with a keen appreciation of the particular and the subjective 
and with a delicate sense for detail, but with no particular 
capacity for harmonizing and unifying the various parts into a 
great and united whole. However, in architecture and painting 
particularly, he did not so early attain a certain degree of pro- 
gress, and stand still for ever after, as he did in his sciences after 
the tenth century. 

Archi- Of the architectural monuments which once adorned the city 
teciure q ^ al-Mans.Gr and al-Rashid no trace has been left, whereas two 
of the noblest surviving structures of Islam, the Umayyad 
Mosque at Damascus and the Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem, 
date from the earlier Umayyad period. The caliphal palace 
called the Golden Gate {bab al-dhahab) or Green Dome 
qubbah al-khadra) erected by the founder of Baghdad, as well 
as his Palace of Eternity (qasr al-khuld) and the Rusafah 



palace, built for the crown prince al-Mahdi; 1 the palaces of the 
Barmakids at al-Shammasiyah; 2 , the palace of the Pleiades 
(al-thurayyd), on which al-Mu*tadid (892-902), who restored 
Baghdad as capital after Samarra, spent 400,000 dinars, 3 and 
his adjoining palace styled the Crown (al-tdf)* completed by 
his son al-Muktafi (902-8); the unique mansion of fcl-Muqtadir 
(908-32) designated the Hall of the Tree (ddr al-shajaraji) on 
account of the gold and silver tree that stood in its pond; the 
Buwayhid mansion known by the name al-Mu'uzTyah after 
Mu'izz-al-Dawlah (932-67), which cost 1,000,000 dinars 5 — all 
these and many others like them left no remains to give us an 
inkling of the splendour that was theirs. So complete was the 
destruction wrought by the civil war between al-Amln and al- 
Ma'mun, by the final devastation of the capital by Hulagu in 
1258 and by natural causes that even the sites of most of these 
palaces cannot today be identified. 

Outside of the capital no *Abbasid ruin can be dated with any 
degree of probability prior to the reigns of al-Mu'tasim (833-42), 
founder of Samarra t and of his son a}-Mute\Y$kki} (847- 
86i), the builder of its great mosque. 0 This congregational 
mosque, which cost 700,000 dinars, 7 was rectangular and the 
multifoil arches of its windows suggest Indian influence. 
Neither here nor in the mosque at abu-Dulaf (also of the mid- 
ninth century) near Samarra has any trace been found of the 
mihrfib (prayer niche) in the qiblah wall. The wall mihrab seems 
to have been a Syrian invention, suggested in all likelihood by 
the apse in the Christian church. 8 Outside, against the wall of 
the great mosque of Samarra, rose a tower which is analogous 
to the ancient Babylonian ziggnrat? This tower was copied 
by ibn-Tulun for the minaret of his mosque (876-5), in which 
the pointed arch appears for the third time in Egypt, after the 
repaired mosque of 'Amr (827) and the Nilometer (861). Such 
" 'Abbasid remains as have survived at al-Raqqah, of the late 

1 Al-Khajib (al-Baghdadi), vol. i, pp. 82-3. 
» * One of the eastern quarters of Baghdad. 

s Mas'Gdi, vol, via, p. n6. This palace was destroyed two centuries later. 

* Khatib,vol. i, pp. 99 sea. * lbn-al-Athlr, vol. ix, p. 2^6 

, * Ya'qfcbs, p. 260; Maqdist, p. 122. » Yaqut, JBuldan, vol in, p. 17, 

* Ernest T, Richmond, Moslem Architecture, 623 to i$i6 (London 1926) p *C4* 
" <£ Ernst Herzfcld, Erster vorlaufiger£cricht titer die Ausgrabungcn vdn Samarra 

(Berlin, 1912), p. 10. See above, p, 261, 

* Above, p. 262. This ancient minaret with its spiral outside stai^ay still exists 
under the name Malwiyah (the bent one). 




eighth century, and at Samarra cany on the tradition of Asiatic, 
more particularly Persian, architecture in contrast to the 
Umayyad structures which bear clear traces of Byzantine- 
Syrian art. Under the Sasatiid dynasty (A.D. 226-641) a dis- 
tinctive type of Persian architecture was developed, with ovoid 
or elliptical domes, semicircular arches, spiral towers, indented 

From Andrae u P*r t»t* Adad Tempd 1 (fftttrtefts, Ltifitj?) 


battlements, glazed wall-tiles and metal-covered roofs. This 
type became one of the most powerful factors in the formation 
of *Abbdsid art. 

The theologians* hostility to all forms of representational Pau 
art 1 did mo more stop its development along Islamic lines than 
did ,the more explicit koranic injunction against wine enforce 
prohibition in Moslem society. We have already noticed that 
al-Mansur set upon the dome of his palace the figure of a horse- 
man which might have served as a weathercock, that al-Amln 
had his pleasure boats on the Tigris fashioned like lions, eagles 
and dolphins and that al-Muqtadir had a gold and silver tree 
with eighteen branches planted in a huge tank in his palace. 
1 Sec above, pp. 269-71, 



On cither side of the tank stood the statues of fifteen horsemen, 
dressed in brocade and armed with lances, constantly moving 
as though in combat. 

The builder of Samarra (836), the CaHph al-Mu r tasim, had 
the walls of his palace there ornamented like those of Qusayr 
*Amrah with frescoes of nude female figures and hunting-scenes, 
probably the work of Christian artists. His second successor, 
al-Mutawakkil, under whom this temporary capital reached its 
zenith, 1 employed for the mural decoration of his palace Byzan- 
tine painters who had no scruples against including among the 
many pictures a church with monks, 2 

In Islam painting was pressed into the service of religion at a 
rather late date and never became its handmaid as it did in 
Buddhism and Christianity. The earliest record of any pictorial 
representation of the Prophet was noted by an Arabian traveller 
of the late ninth century who saw it in the Chinese court, 3 but it 
may well have been produced by Nestorians. The many repre- 
sentations of the Buraq seem to have taken for their prototype, 
through Persian channels, Greek centaurs or the human-headed, 
winged beasts of the earlier Assyrians. Moslem religious painting, 
however, does not make its full appearance until the beginning 
of the fourteenth century. Its derivation was evidently from the 
art of the Oriental Christian churches, particularly the Jacobite 
and the Nestorian, as the researches of Arnold have shown,* and 
developed from book-decoration In miniature illustration the 
Manichaean influence is sometimes apparent. 6 Of the few 
Arabic works dealing with the history of Islamic painters un- 
fortunately none have survived — so little has been the interest 
in the subject. 

The oldest illustrated Arabic manuscript extant is al-Sufi's 
astronomy dated 1005 (nowin Leningrad). In belles-lettres we have 
no work before the thirteenth and twelfth Christian centuries, as 
represented by Kaltlah wa-Dimnah, al-rjarin's Maqamdt, and 
al-Aghani* These miniatures reveal artists who worked under 

1 His buildings are discussed by Ya'qubi, pp 266 7, and b) Yaqut, vol ui, pp 
r 7-1S, who estimates that thej cost al-Mutawakkil 294,000,000 dirhams 

2 Ernst Herzfeld, Die Malcrexen van Samarra (Berlin, J 927), pis lxi t Km 

* Mas'udi, vol 1, pp 315 18 * Painting tn Islam (Oxford, 1928)* ch ut 

* Cf. Thomas W Arnold and Adolf Grohmamu The Islamic Bool (London, 
1929), p 2 

e For a 1 217/18 miniature of the Prophet consult Bulletin dc V Instttut d £gypte t 
vol, xxvm (Cairo, 1946), pp 1-5 



the influence of traditions derived from a Christian source or 
were Christians themselves Such Moslems as cared to ignore the 
teaching of their theologians had first to employ Jacobite or 
Nestonan painters until the Moslems themselves had time to 
develop their independent artists. Persia with its old Indo- 
Iranian instincts and traditions was particularly fertile in the 

f*rvM Arn >JJ end Gri>/t» ami The Islan ic Bo tx (TAt Pf casus Puss) 

A sick man, with his son behind his head, is \1s1ted by Ins friends 
MS , dated a H 734 (1334), in the National Library, Vienna 

early production of such independent painters But the prevailing 
idea that this production was due to non-conformist Shfite ten- 
dencies cannot be sound in view of the fact that Shl'ism did not 
prevail in Persia to the extent of becoming the state religion until 
the establishment of the Safawid dynasty m 1502. 
industrial Since early antiquity the Persians have proved themsches 
MU masters of decorative design and colour. Through their efforts 
the industrial arts of Islam attained a high degree of excellence. 
Carpet-weaving, as old as Pharaonic Egypt, was especially de- 
veloped. Hunting and garden scenes were favoured in rug de- 
signs, and alum was used in the dye to render the many colours 


fast. Decorated silk fabrics, the product of Moslem hand-looms 
in Egypt and Syria, were so highly prized in Europe that they 
were chosen by Crusaders and other Westerners, above all tex- 
tiles, as wrappings for relics of saints* 

In ceramics, another art as ancient as Egypt and Susa, the 
reproduction of the human form and of animals and plants, as 
well as geometric and epigraphic figures, attained a beauty of 
decorative style unsurpassed in any other Moslem art, 1 In spite 
of the prejudicial attitude of legists, which crystallized in the 
second and third Moslem centuries against plastic as well as 
pictorial art, pottery and metal-work continued to produce dis- 
tinctive pieces second to none in the Middle Ages, Qashani tile, 
decorated with conventional flowers, which was introduced from 
Persia to Damascus, found great vogue, together with mosaic 
work, in exterior and interior decoration of buildings. Better 
than any others, Arabic characters lent themselves to decorative 
designs and became a powerful motif in Islamic art. They even 
became religious symbols. Particularly in Antioch, Aleppo, 
Damascus and such ancient Phoenician towns as Tyre were the 
processes of enamelling and gilding glass perfected. Among 
the treasures of the Louvre, the British Museum and the Arab 
Museum of Cairo are exquisite pieces from Samarra and ai* 
„ Fustat, including plates, cups, vases, ewers and lamps for home 
and mosque use, painted with brilliant radiant lustres and 
acquiring through the ages metallic glazes of changing rainbow 

The art of calligraphy, which drew its prestige from its object 
to perpetuate the word of God, and enjoyed the approval of the 
Koran (68 ; I, 96 ; 4), arose m the second or third Moslem cen- 
tury and soon became the most highly prized art. 2 It was entirely 
Islamic and its influence on painting was appreciable. Through 
it the Moslem sought a channel for his esthetic nature, which 
could not express itself tlirough the representation of animate 
objects. The calligrapher held a position of dignity and honour 
far above the painter. Even rulers sought to win religious merit 
by copying the Koran. Arabic books of history and literature 
have preserved for us with honourable mention the names of 
several calligraphers^but kept their silence in the case of archi- 
tects, painters and metal-workers. Among the founders of Arabic 
* * Gaston Migcon, JLcs oris musulmons (Paris, 1926), pp. 36-7. 
* Set QaJqashandi, vol. hi, pp. $ seq , vol. u, pp. 430 seq. 



calligraphy were al-Rayhani 1 (Rlhani, 1834), who flourished 
under al-Ma'mun and perfected the style named after him; ibn- 
Muqlah (886-940), the *Abbasid vizir whose hand was cut off by 
the Caliph al-Radi and who could still write elegantly with his left 
hand and even by attaching a pen to the stump of his right one; 8 
and ibn-al-Bawwab 3 (f 1022 or 1032), the son of a porter of the 
audience chamber of Baghdad and inventor of the muJtaqqaq 
style. The last penman of the 'Abbasid period to achieve dis- 
tinction was Yaqut al-Musta*simi, the court calligraphist of the 
last 'Abbasid caliph, from whose name the Yaquti style derives 
its designation. Judging by the surviving specimens of the 
penmanship of Yaqut* and other renowned calligraphers of yore 
the artistic merits cannot be placed high. Calligraphy is perhaps 
the only Arab art which today has Christian and Moslem repre- 
sentatives in Constantinople, Cairo, Beirut and Damascus whose 
productions excel in elegance and beauty any masterpieces that 
the ancients ever produced. 

Not only calligraphy but its associate arts, colour decoration, 
illumination, and the whole craft of bookbinding, owed their 
genesis and bloom to their relation to the sacred book. Under the 
late 'Abbasids began the art of book-decoration and Koran illu- 
mination which reached its highest development in the Saljuqand 
Mamluk periods. Here again the pictorial art of the Nestorians 
and Jacobites was evidently the main influencing factor. -The 
Moslem gilder {?nudhahhib\ who thus arose after the calli- 
graphcr, ranked second to him in importance. After the Koran 
the art was extended to include profane manuscripts. 

The legists' disapproval of music was no more effective in 
Baghdad than it had been before in Damascus. The 'Abbasid 
al-Mahdi began where the last Umayyads ended. He invited 
and patronized Siyat 5 of Makkah (739-85), "whose song warmed 
the chilled more than a hot bath'*, 6 and his pupil Ibrahim al- 
Mawsili (742-804), who after his master became the patriarch of 
classical music. When young, Ibrahim, a descendant of a noble 
Persian family, 7 was kidnapped outside al-Mawsil and during 

1 Fxkrtst, p 119; Yaqut, Udcbd\ vol. v, pp. 268 seq. 

* Ibn-Khalhkfin, vol. 11 , p. 472; Fakhrt, pp. 366, 370-7 1; YaqQt, vol. iii, p. 150. 
JL 8- 10 * Ibn-Khalhkan, vol* 11, pp. 31 seq.\ Nutvayn, \ol. vh, pp. 3-4, 

* Sec B. Moritz, Arahc Palaograpky (Cairo, 1905), pi 89 

* 'Abdullah lbn-Wahb, a freedman of Khuza'ah; Aghdni t vol. vi, p. 7. 

* Aghant, vol. vi, p. 8, 11. 4-5, quoted by Nuwayri, vol. iv, p. 289. 

* Fthrist) p. 140, ibn-Khalbkan, vol. i, p. 14; Nuwayri, vol. iv, p. 320. 


his detention learned some of the brigands* songs. He was the 
first to beat the rhythm with a wand 1 and could detect one girl 
amongthirty lute-players and ask her to tighten the second string 
ofherill-tuncd instrument. 2 Later, al-Rashld took Ibrahim into his 
service as boon companion, bestowed on him 1 50,000 dirhams 
and assigned him a monthly salary of 10,000 dirhams. From his 
patron the artist received occasional presents, one of which is 
said to Jiave amounted to 100,000 dirhams for a single song. 
Ibrahim had an inferior rival in ibn-Jami*, a Qurayshite and 
stepson of Siyat. In the judgment of the % lqd "Ibrahim was the 
greatest of the musicians in versatility, but ibn~Jami r had the 
sweetest note". 3 When a favoured court minstrel was asked by 
Harun for his opinion of ibn-Jami f , his reply was: "How can 1 
describe honey, which is sweet however you taste it?"* 

The refined and dazzling court of ai-Rashld patronized music 
and singing, as it did science and art, to the extent of becoming 
the centre of a galaxy of musical stars. 5 Salaried musicians 
accompanied by men and women slave singers thrived in it and 
furnished the theme for numberless fantastic anecdotes im- 
mortalized in the pages of the Agkani? x Iqd t Fihrist, Nihdyah r 
and, above all, the Arabian Nights. Two thousand such singers 
took part in a musical festival under the caliph's patronage* His 
son al-Amln held a similar night entertainment in which the 
personnel of the palace, both male and female, danced till dawn. 7 
While the army of al-Ma'mun was investing Baghdad al-Anun 
sat pathetically in his palace on the bank of the Tigris listening 
to his favourite singing girls. 8 

Another proteg£ of al-Rashid was Mukhariq (f ca. 845), a 
pupil of Ibrahim. When young, Mukhariq was bought by a 
woman singer who heard him in his father's butcher shop cry* 
ing in his beautiful and powerful voice his father's meats. He 
later passed into the possession of Harun, who freed him, re- 
warded him with 100,000 dinars 9 and honoured him with a seat 
by the caliph's side. One evening he went out on the Tigris and 

* P- 3 *°> 1* 4. Cf. above, p. 275. * Aghant, vol. v, p. 41. 

* Vol. in, p. *39 + * Uc. dl. Cf. Agkani, vol. vi, p. 12, 

* I$d, vol. in, pp. 239 se$. 

* besides being a treasure-house of information on almost every phase of Arab 
social life* this "book of songs" is also a history of music from prc-lslamic days to 
the jime of the author, ftMsfahani {$07~9$7)> the greatest music historian the Arabs 
produced. ' Above, p. 303. • Mas'udi, vol. vi, pp. 426-^0. 

* Agk&ti vol *xj, p. 226, vol- viri, p. 20. 



started to sing. Immediately torches began to move to and fro in 
the streets of Baghdad in the hands of people anxious to hear the 
master-singer. 1 

Al-Ma*mun and al-Mutawakkil had as a cup companion 
Ishaq ibn-IbrahTm al-Mawsili (767-850), dean of the musicians 
of his age. 3 After his father, Ishaq personified the spirit of classi- 
cal Arabic music. As an all-round musician he was "the greatest 
that Islam had produced*'. 3 He claimed, as did also his father 
and Ztryab, that it was the jinn who prompted his melodies. 

These and other virtuosi of 'the halcyon days who won undying 
fame as companions to the caliphs were more than musicians; 
they were endowed with keen wits and retentive memories well 
stocked with choice verses of poetry and delightful anecdotes. 
They were singers, composers, poets and scholars well versed in 
the scientific lore of the day. Under them stood the instrument- 
alists (sing, ddrib), among whom the lute was generally most 
favoured; the viol (radalr) was used by inferior performers. Then 
came the singing girls (sing. qaynah) t who as a rule performed 
while concealed behind curtains. Such girls came to be a 
necessary adornment of the harem and their keeping and 
training developed into an important industry. For one educated 
by Ishaq, a messenger of the governor of Egypt offered 30,000 
dinars, which sum was matched by an envoy of the Byzantine 
emperor and increased to 40,000 by a messenger of the ruler of 
Khurasan. Ishaq solved the problem by freeing the girl and 
marrying her.* 

The caliphal house in Baghdad, more than that of Damascus, 
developed several distinguished lutanists, singers and composers. 
Of all the *Abbasids Ibrahim ibn-al-Mahdi, brother of Harun 
and in 817 rival caliph of al-Ma'mun, acquired the greatest fame 
as musician-singer. 2 Al-Wathiq (842-7^, who performed on the 
lute and composed a hundred melodies, 8 was the first caliph 
musician. After him both al-Muntasir (861-2) and al-Mu'tazz 
(866-9) showed some poetical and musical talent. 7 But the only 
real caliph musician was al - Mu'tamid (870-92), in whose 

1 Aghani, vol. xxi t pp. 237-8. Cf. Nuwayri, Nthayah^ \o\. iv, p. 307. 
1 See ibn-Khalhkan, vol 1, pp 114 seqs, Ftkrts£ t pp. 140*41; Aghant t vol. v, pp. 
52 scq*\ Nuwayri, vol. v, pp. 1 sea. 

* Farmer, Arabian Music^ p. 125. 4 Fchhri t pp. 276*9. 

* Ibn-KhaiUkSn, vol. i, pp. 12 segs, "Jakari, vol. hi, pp. 1030 sea. 

* Agkant, vol. viu, p. 163, quoted by Nuwa>ri, vol. xv, p. 198, 

* Nuwayri, vol. iv, p. 199. 


presence the geographer ibn-Khurdadhbih delivered his oration 

on music and dance, a notable contribution to our knowledge 

of their state at that time. 1 
Among the many Greek works translated in the golden age: 

of the *Abbastds were a few dealing with the speculative theory 1 
of music. Two such Aristotelian works were done into Arabic 
under the titles Kitdb aUMasail (Problcmatd) and Kitdb fi 
al-Naf$ (De anirna) z by the famous Nestorian physician 
Hunayn ibn-Ishaq (809-73), w ^o also translated a work by 
Galen under the title Kitdb al-Sawt (De voce). Euclid had two 
titles ascribed to him in Arabic, Kitdb al-Nagham (book of 
melody), a pseudo-Euclidian work, and Kitab al-Qdnun (canon). 8 
Aristoxenus, of the fourth century B.C., was known chiefly by 
his Kitdb al-tqtt (rhythm) 4 and Nicomachus, Aristotle's son, 
through Kitdb al-Muslqi al-Kablr (opus major on music). 5 The 
Brethren of Sincerity (tenth century), some of whom were 
evidently musical theorists, classified music as a branch of 
mathematics and venerated Pythagoras as the founder of its 
theory. 6 It was from these and other Greek works that the Arab 
authors acquired their first scientific ideas on music and became 
schooled in the physical and physiological aspects of the theory 
of sound. The scientific-mathematical side of Arab music was 
therefore derived from the Greek, but the practical side, as the 
researches of Farmer 7 have shown, had purely Arabian models. 
About this time the word musxqi, later musiqa (music), was 
borrowed from the Greek and applied to the theoretical aspects 
of the science, leaving the older Arabic term ghina, used 
hitherto for both song and music, to the practical art. Qitdr 
(guitar) and nrghun (organ), as names of instruments, and other 
technicaHcrms of Greek origin now appear in Arabic. The organ 
was clearly an importation from the Byzantines. Two organ 
constructors flourished in the twelfth century, abu-at-Majd 
ibn-abi-al-Hakam (fn8o) of Damascus and abu-Zakariya* 
Yahya al-Bayasi, who was attached to the service of Salah- 

1 Mas*udi t vol. viii, pp. S8-103. 

5 Possibly translated by ljunayn's son Isrmq (f 910), 

* Fikristt p. 266; Qifft p. 65. 

* Fihtist, p. 270. * Ibid, p. 269. « Xas&it, vol. J, p. I 

"* AraMcn Music, pp. 200-2015 "Music" in The Legacy of Islam, ed. Thoinae 
Arnold and Alfred GuillMime (Oxford, 1931), pp. 356 seq. 
■ Ibn-ftbi-UgaybTah, vol. ii, pp. 155, 163. 


Musical writers after the Greek school were led by the 
philosopher al-Kindi, who flourished in the second half of the 
ninth century and whose works, as noted before, bear the earliest 
traces of Greek influence. Al-Kindi is credited with six works, 
in one of which we find the first definite use of notation among the 
Arabs. Not only ai-Kindi but several of the leading Moslem 
philosophers and physicians were musical theorists as well. 
Al-Ra2i (865-925) composed at least one such work, cited by 
ibn-abi-UsaybTah. 1 Al-Farabi (f 950), himself an accomplished 
lute performer, was the greatest writer on the theory of music 
during the Middle Ages. Besides writing commentaries on 
various lost works of Euclid he produced three original works. 
Of these Kitdb al-Aiusiqi al-Kabir 2 was the most authoritative in 
the East. In the West his compendium of sciences, Ihsa aU 
*Uluvi* {De seic7itiis) t being the earliest and best known of the 
works dealing with music to be rendered into Latin, exerted 
powerful influence. Besides the writings of al-Farabi those of 
ibn-Sina (f 1037), who abridged earlier works and included in 
his at-Shifa a study of music, and of ibn-Rushd (f 1198) were 
translated into Latin and became text-books in Western Europe. 
As for al-Ghazzali (f 1 u 1), it was his defence of al-samd' (music 
and song) 4 that caused music to play such an important part in 
the ritual of the Sufi fraternities. 

Most of these technical treatises unhappily have been lost in 
the original. Arabic music, with its notation and its two con- 
stituent elements of nagham (melodic modes) and tqa (rhythmic 
modes), has been therefore transmitted by word of mouth only 
and has been finally lost. Arabic chants today are scant in 
melody but strong in rhythm, and no modern person can interpret 
properly the few surviving works on classical music or under- 
stand fully the meaning of their ancient designations of rhythm 
and their scientific terminology. Many such terms may be traced 
to Persian and Indian origins. 

1 Vol. i, p. 320, ]. 26. 1 See above, p. 372, n. I* 

1 Ed. 'Uthman Muhammad Amin (Cairo, 1931) 
* Ifry£\ vol. a, pp. 238 scq* 


WE have dwelt at some length on the first two and a half 
centuries of the *Abbasid period (750-1000) because this was a 
formative period during which Moslem civilization received that